Cyber-attackers reportedly from China may have accessed networks of Australia’s defence ministry by hacking a powerful weather computer.
The hack, revealed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), may have resulted in some potentially sensitive national security information to have been stolen.
Supercomputers at Australia’s Bureau of meteorology are linked to those of the Department of Defence. According to the ABC, the systems have suffered from a ‘massive breach’ in the recent days with the attackers most likely being based in China.
"It's China," the ABC quoted one source as saying.
Neither the Bureau of Meteorology nor the Australian Federal Police nor the Department of Defence provided any further information.
China's Foreign Ministry dismissed the accusation, saying the government opposed cyber-attacks and all parties concerned should strengthen dialogue to solve the problem ‘in the spirit of mutual respect’.
China has long been accused of using its considerable computing resources to infiltrate online businesses for competitive advantage, as well as conducting acts of cyber espionage.
In June, US officials blamed Chinese hackers for compromising the records of up to four million current and former government employees.
China called the US comments irresponsible, while President Barack Obama vowed that the United States would aggressively bolster its cyber defences.
China is Australia's top trading partner, with two-way trade of about A$150bn ($110bn) in 2013, and they signed a landmark free trade agreement in 2014 that is likely to further boost commercial ties.
But Chinese firms have been locked out of sensitive deals in the past over security concerns, most prominently a decision in 2013 to bar Huawei from bidding on Australia's National Broadband Network, a deal worth tens of billions of dollars.