Australian IT link in Chinese hack of jet companies

November 01, 2018

An Australian IT company is at the centre of a major hacking case in which United States authorities have accused China of using compromised domain names to steal sophisticated aviation technology.

Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi continues to call for a royal commission into Chinese Communist Government influence in Australia as the evidence of it is now overwhelming.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports, a US Justice Department indictment claims the technology was used to advance China's domestic aviation industry.

According to the indictment, Chinese hackers penetrated the computer systems of an "Australian domain name registrar", named only as "Company L"  as part of a broader plan to enable the hackers to access computer systems at aviation companies in the United States and Europe.

Under direction from the Chinese Ministry of State Security, the hackers are accused of either creating fake domain names or redirecting existing domain names to malicious addresses.

"Members of the conspiracy hacked into protected computers," the indictment alleges.

It suggests the Australian domain name registrar was used as a back door into the aviation companies' systems during a hacking operation which lasted for five years until 2015.

The case forms part of Washington's escalating trade war with Beijing. Along with higher tariffs on Chinese goods, the US is seeking to stop the theft of US intellectual property by agencies such as the Ministry of State Security.

In announcing criminal charges against 10 Chinese spies, hackers and others on October 30th, US Assistant Attorney General John Demers said, "this is just the beginning".

"We will redouble our efforts to safeguard America's ingenuity and investment," he said.

It is the third time since September that hacking charges have been laid against Chinese intelligence officers and those associated with them.

In a speech on Monday night Mike Burgess, the director general of the Australia Signals Directorate said over the  past year his agency had discovered sophisticated cyber threats affecting Australian interests.

"We have identified and dealt with hackers on government networks, across the private sector through to academia. Without our efforts, these threats would have certainly been left unchecked and caused major damage to Australian interests," he said.

Senator Bernardi has told Sydney radio station 2CH's Kel Richards, the failure of the Morrison government to call a royal commission into Chinese influence in Australia is of great concern.

To read Nick McKenzie and Angus Grigg's full story, click here.

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