Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today that the country is currently under broad cyber attack from a "sophisticated state-based actor".
In a media briefing in Canberra, Morrison revealed that cyber actors are targeting Australian organisations across a broad range of sectors, including political entities, government departments, health, education, and operators of essential services and critical infrastructure in the country.
"We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting," he said.
However, he did not specify the exact scale or nature of the attacks nor provide any information on which entities were hit by hackers. He just said that no "large-scale personal data breaches" were discovered during government's investigation.
Morrison also refrained from naming the state that Australia believes to be responsible for these attacks. He told journalists that there are not many state-based actors with capabilities to engage in this type of malicious activity.
"It is clear ... that this has been done by a state-based actor with very, very significant capabilities," he added.
Cyber security experts have long associated hacking activities in Australia to China. They stress that China is one of the states, along with Iran, Russia, North Korea and Iran, which are not very friendly with Australia and have the capability for such attacks.
Australia's relations with China have specifically worsened in recent months after Australia voiced support for US demand for a detailed inquiry into the origins and spread of coronavirus which was first detected in China in December last year.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre is currently working with targeted businesses and organisations to strengthen their defences against cyber attacks.
In an advisory published on Thursday, ACSC said that Australian organisations must be alert to cyber security threats and should immediately take steps to enhance the resilience of their networks.
"Cyber security is everyone's responsibility," ACSC added.
In the press briefing, Morrison made it clear that such cyber threats are not new for Australia and have been on-going for the several months, although he was impelled to speak about them because of the increasing frequency of attacks.
Last year, Australia's national parliament was targeted in a cyber attack, which Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) believed were conducted by China-backed hackers.
ASD also believed that attacks on three political parties in the country before the general election in May were also carried out by Chinese actors.
Also last year, ransomware attacks against many hospitals in Australia crippled their services, forcing them to shut down their systems and even cancel elective surgeries.
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