Skip to main content

Australian lawmaker says hackers stole spy agency information

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Wed May 29, 2013
Prime Minister Julia Gillard talks during House of Representatives question time on May 28, 2013 in Canberra, Australia.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard talks during House of Representatives question time on May 28, 2013 in Canberra, Australia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An opposition senator says the cyber theft of spy agency blueprints happened
  • He says the prime minster was wrong to dismiss a TV report on the attack
  • China has called the TV report a "baseless accusation"
  • The program alleged that other top Australian government agencies were hacked

(CNN) -- Hackers using a server in China stole the blueprints for the new headquarters of Australia's main spy agency "some time ago," an opposition senator said Wednesday, contradicting comments by the country's prime minister.

The controversy stems from a TV report this week alleging that a cyberattack swiped the blueprints to the new headquarters of the ASIO, Australia's top intelligence organization, including details on the building's security and communications systems, its floor plan and the locations of its servers.

"These events did take place some time ago; they were dealt with by ASIO," said George Brandis, the deputy leader of the opposition in the Senate who is responsible for national security issues. "I'm reassured by the director general about the way in which they were dealt with by ASIO."

He was speaking in an interview with CNN affiliate Sky News Australia following a private briefing with David Irvine, the director-general of the spy agency.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday described the report, by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's investigative program Four Corners, as "inaccurate."

The program also reported that hackers, thought to be from China, had breached government agencies including the prime minister's office and cabinet, as well as the departments of foreign affairs and defense.

"There were a number of unsubstantiated allegations of hacking in the Four Corners report as the attorney general has stated," Gillard said in parliament. "Neither he or the director general of ASIO intend to comment further on these inaccurate reports."

But Brandis disputed Gillard's statement.

"The prime minister in question time yesterday just dismissed the report entirely as being inaccurate, and that claim by the prime minister is false," he said.

Gillard's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Brandis's remarks. Brandis's office didn't immediately make him available for further comment on the matter.

Australia the 'lucky country' for a better life: survey

At a foreign ministry news conference Tuesday, a Chinese government official called the report a "baseless accusation."

"Since the attacks are technically untraceable, it's difficult to find the origin of these attacks," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei. "I don't know where does the evidence come from for media to make such reports."

Hong added that cybersecurity is an issue internationally and it calls for a "calm and thorough discussion."

"Making baseless accusation will not help to improve the current situation," he said.

Earlier this month, the United States accused China of trying to extract sensitive information from U.S. government computers.

A Pentagon report said China was carrying out the attacks in an effort to extract information from "diplomatic, economic and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs."

At the time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China was "firmly against any forms of cyberattacks." Beijing has in the past insisted that China is the victim of cyberattacks, most originating in the United States.

Watch where you click: International cyber attacks on the rise

CNN's Dayu Zhang contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
With so many new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT