The Morrison government has taken the unprecedented step to publicly rebuke China for stealing commercial secrets from Australian businesses, joining foreign allies in a coordinated push back against Beijing's state-sponsored cyber attacks on entities around the world.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has repeatedly called for a royal commission into Chinese Communist Party influence in Australia but the Morrison government has refused.
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The Australian Financial Review reports, Australian mining companies, universities and high-tech businesses are believed to be among the thousands of global victims targeted by China's economic espionage committed through cyber attacks.
Within hours of US prosecutors charging two Chinese nationals with computer hacking attacks on a wide range of American government agencies and corporations and accusing China of trying to overtake the US as the world's superpower, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton today issued a strongly-worded joint statement condemning China.
Alastair MacGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre at the Australian Signals Directorate in Canberra, said potentially thousands of companies including Australian large and medium sized firms using outsourced technology providers had suffered cyber attacks from APT10, a group acting on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
"This is audacious, it is huge and it impacts potentially thousands of victims globally," Mr MacGibbon said on ABC Radio this morning.
"We know there are victims in Australia."
"It is time now to use this as a point of inflection in how we protect our economy."
The cyber attacks and theft of commercial intellectual property breach a 2017 deal then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and China's Premier Li Keqiang did not to steal each other's commercial secrets.
China's APT10 unit was accused of infiltrating providers of outsourced IT services, known as managed service providers (MSPs), which control sensitive data and information for thousands of clients globally.
The government will not disclose and is not sure exactly how many Australian entities were compromised. It is working with the private sector to detect if there are hacks that are yet to be noticed.
Senator Bernardi has told Kel Richards on Sydney radio station 2CH, growing Chinese influence and interference with Australia's economy and politics is a real worry.
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