Joint Strike Fighter plans stolen in Australia cyber attack

Cheryl Sanders
October 12, 2017

A mystery hacker codenamed after a larrikin Australian soap opera character has been revealed as stealing sensitive, high-level information about a $1.1 trillion defence project created by an alliance including Australia, the U.S, United Kingdom and Canada.

Clarke, who worked on the case and did not name the subcontractor, said information about the F-35, the US' latest generation of fighter jets, as well as the P8, an advanced submarine hunter and surveillance craft, were lifted.

In addition to the F-35A program, the attacker obtained restricted technical data on the P-8 Poseidon spy aircraft, the C-130 transport plane, the Joint Direct Attack Munition smart bomb and a number of Australian naval vessels.

The company, which had only one IT person, was subcontracted four levels down from defence contracts.

'There's no way this one IT person could have done everything perfectly across the whole domain, ' said Mr Clarke.

The admin password, to enter the company's web portal, was "admin" and the guest password was "guest".

The hackers used a tool called "China Chopper" which according to security experts is widely used by Chinese actors, and had gained access via an internet-facing server, he said.

An Australian government agency official has admitted that 30GB of sensitive data about military planes and ships were stolen from a defence subcontractor. "It could be a state actor, a non-state actor, it could have been someone who was working for another company, so I would not want to speculate on that at this stage", Mr Pyne told ABC Radio.

The hack was discovered by a major Defence contractor.

"The information we collect through the ASD is very highly classified, secret, confidential information", he said. "The ASD and the cyber security office immediately swung into action", he said.

Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said the government is unsure of the identity of the hacker and whether they are state or non-state actor.

The revelations came just days after Assistant Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan said there were 47,000 cyber incidents in the last 12 months, a 15% jump from the previous year.

"If we got lucky this time, and it was only sensitive information, not even more significant information, we need to make sure there is no next time, the government needs to wake up to itself, start taking its responsibility seriously and start protecting sensitive defence information".

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