Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says a report alleging Chinese hackers stole plans for Australia’s new intelligence hub will not hit ties with Beijing.
On Monday the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported blueprints setting out the building’s cable layouts and security systems had been illegally accessed by a server in China.
Bob Carr did not comment directly on the claims.
But he said the government was “very alive” to cyber security threats.
“I won’t comment on whether the Chinese have done what is being alleged or not,” he said.
“I won’t comment on matters of intelligence and security for the obvious reason: we don’t want to share with the world and potential aggressors what we know about what they might be doing, and how they might be doing it.”
Bob Carr said the ABC report had “no implications” for a strategic partnership.
“We have enormous areas of co-operation with China,” he said.
The claims were made in a report on Chinese cyber-espionage by ABC’s Four Corners investigative programme on Monday night.
Chinese hackers stole plans for Australia’s new intelligence hub
The programme alleged that blueprints to the new intelligence headquarters in Canberra – due to be finished last year but delayed – were stolen in a cyber attack on a contractor that was traced to a server in China.
The plans detailed communications cabling and server locations, floor plans and security systems, the programme alleged.
It quoted Professor Des Ball, an expert on cyber security from the Australian National University, as saying access to such details would enable an outside party to identify rooms used for sensitive activities and work out how to monitor them.
The programme also alleged that the Prime Minster’s Office, the Defence Ministry and the Department of Foreign Affairs had been breached in hacking operations.
Four Corners did not identify the source of its information.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei rejected the claims, saying “groundless” accusations would not solve the problem of cyber hacking.
“Since it is technically untraceable, it is very difficult to find the source and identify the hacker,” he said.
“Therefore we have no idea what is the evidence for their report in which they make the claim with such certainty.”
Earlier this year, hackers from China – which is now Australia’s biggest trading partner – were thought to be behind an attack on the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Australian Financial Review reported.
The issue of cyber espionage looks set to be high on the agenda when the US and Chinese presidents hold their first summit in California next month.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon for the first time directly accused the Chinese government and military of targeting US government computers as part of a cyber espionage campaign aimed at collecting intelligence on US diplomatic, economic and defence sectors.
China called the report “groundless”, saying it represented “US distrust”.
He said he had been “astonished” at the comments by Margaret Thatcher, which were made while his Malaysian-born wife Helena was “standing not far away” but was “fortunately out of earshot”.
But he said he retained respect for the “boldness of her political leadership”.
Bob Carr prefaced his comments by saying Margaret Thatcher had been “the most significant” leader since Winston Churchill, forcing social democratic parties to “think more deeply about the function of the state”. Lady Thatcher had been “right in joining [former US President Ronald] Reagan and denouncing the old Soviet Union as an evil dictatorship”, he said.
“On 100 other things I would pick arguments with her and I recall one conversation I had with her in her retirement where she said something that was unabashedly racist, where she warned Australia – talking to me with Helena standing not far away – against Asian immigration, saying that if we allowed too much of it we’d see the natives of the land, the European settlers, overtaken by migrants.
“I couldn’t believe it. It reminded me that despite, yes, her greatness on those big questions, the role of the state, the evil nature of the Communist totalitarianism, there was an old-fashioned quality to her that was entirely out of touch and probably explained why her party removed her in the early 90s.”
Bob Carr went on to recall: “I remember one thing she said as part of that conversation, she said: <<You will end up like Fiji>>. She said: <<I like Sydney but you can’t allow the migrants>> – and in context she meant Asian migration – <<to take over, otherwise you will end up like Fiji where the Indian migrants have taken over>>.
“I was so astonished I don’t think I could think of an appropriate reply.”
Margaret Thatcher will be buried with full military honors at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday April 17.
Israel has confirmed it imprisoned Prisoner X, an Australian-Israeli man under a false identity, for security reasons, and that he died in custody.
The justice ministry did not name the man – previously known as Prisoner X, and recently identified by Australian media as Ben Zygier – but said his family was notified of his detention.
Ben Zygier was held following a court order and his rights were upheld, it added.
The ministry also stated that the man killed himself inside his cell in 2010.
On Wednesday, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr ordered a review of how diplomats handled the detention of Mr Zygier, who is believed to have worked for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.
On Thursday, Bob Carr told a parliamentary committee that Canberra had been informed of Ben Zygier’s detention in February 2010.
Australia was told through intelligence channels that he had been detained “in relation to serious offences under Israeli national security legislation”.
He “would be treated in accordance with his lawful rights as an Israeli citizen”, Australia was told. No request for consular support was received, Bob Carr said.
Speculation about the existence and identity of Prisoner X has been rife since reports of his death broke in the Israeli media two years ago, despite strict reporting restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities.
The statement published by the Israeli justice ministry on Wednesday evening gave only a few new details about the case.
“For security reasons, the prisoner was held under a pseudonym, but his family was notified of the arrest immediately,” it said.
“The prisoner was held in jail under a warrant issued by a court. The proceedings were overseen by senior officials in the justice ministry and he was duly represented in all the proceedings against him.”
The statement added that he “was found dead in his cell two years ago” and that a closed-door inquiry into the death was ordered at the time.
The justice ministry said the investigation concluded six weeks ago that the cause of the prisoner’s death was suicide, but that the judge recommended that the state “pursue a negligence investigation”.
“National security prevents the release of any other details in this case.”
Israel has confirmed it imprisoned Prisoner X, an Australian-Israeli man under a false identity, for security reasons, and that he died in custody
The identity of Prisoner X was revealed on Tuesday by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which named him as Ben Zygier.
According to its report, he was an active member of Melbourne’s Jewish community before emigrating to Israel in 2000 and serving in the army.
At the time of his death, Ben Zygier was 34 and married to an Israeli woman and had two children.
He is known to have gone by the Hebrew name of Ben Alon in Israel and also carried an Australian passport bearing the name Ben Allen. Fairfax said he had also called himself Benjamin Burrows.
The reason for Ben Zygier’s arrest and imprisonment in Israel is not known, but ABC said it understood he had been recruited by Mossad.
Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that months before he was arrested in Israel, Ben Zygier was being investigated by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) on suspicion of fraudulently using his passport for espionage purposes.
Ben Zygier was found hanged in a cell on 15 December 2010, months after he “disappeared”, and his body was flown to Melbourne for burial the following week, ABC added.
When the story about Prisoner X first emerged, Israeli media said the unidentified man was being held incommunicado at Ayalon Prison, a maximum security facility in central Israel.
ABC said his cell was fitted with surveillance cameras designed to prevent suicide.
The reason for his detention was not disclosed and his identification was so secret that even his guards did not know who he was, it reported.
An Israeli opposition MP said he agreed that the government’s actions were likely to have been in the interests of national security.
“In general I understand it, but practically I think the government took some steps that may irritate anyone who cares for freedom of expression,” Nachman Shai of the Labour party added.