(Refiles to fix typo in headline)
By Rob Taylor
CANBERRA, June 3 Australia will a develop a
cyber defence strategy to combat hacking and electronic
espionage, the government said on Friday, responding to what it
sees as an increased threat after recent cyber attacks on global
companies and government officials.
The United States said this week it was assessing whether
security had been compromised after Google Inc revealed
a major hacker attack targeting U.S. officials that the Internet
giant pegged to China.
Google's hacking has fuelled debate in Washington over
China's intentions in cyberspace, which the United States has
identified as a potential flashpoint for future conflict.
Australia's cyber defence blueprint will confront the
growing threat posed by electronic espionage, theft and
state-sponsored cyber attack, Attorney-General Robert McClelland
and Defence Minister Stepehen Smith said.
"The Cyber White Paper will examine what we need to do to
protect ourselves online, the role of government, industry and
the public in protecting our interests," McClelland told a cyber
security function in Sydney.
The strategy paper, to be completed in the first half of
2012, would look at a broad range of areas including consumer
protection, cyber safety, cyber crime, cyber security and cyber
defence, McClelland said.
Google announced on Wednesday that suspected Chinese hackers
tried to steal passwords of hundreds of Google email account
holders, including senior U.S. government officials, Chinese
activists and journalists. [ID:nN02296100]
The allegations by the world's largest Web search company
sparked an angry response from Beijing, which said blaming China
Australia's parliament came under cyber attack in February,
with the computers of at least 10 federal ministers including
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Defence Minister Stephen Smith,
targeted and confidential emails possibly accessed.
Chinese intelligence agencies were among a list of foreign
hackers suspected of being behind those raids, which followed
similar breaches in France concerning computer network
information about the Group of 20 wealthy nations.
McClelland earlier this week urged companies to tighten
vigilance over cyber attacks launched offshore against some of
the world's biggest resource firms and other businesses, warning
high-tech threats were intensifying. [ID:nL3E7GU0CG]
The head of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs,
Dennis Richardson, told upper house budget hearings on Thursday
that his officials were experiencing near daily cyber attacks.
"I doubt whether there would be a 24-hour period in which
you wouldn't get something. They can be anything ranging from
skilled kids seeing what they can do, to sophisticated hackers
getting a kick out of it, through to attempted espionage," said
Richardson, a former head of Australia's domestic spy agency.
Australia's former prime minister Kevin Rudd made cyber
security a national security priorities in 2009, but the country
has not yet followed the lead of close ally the United States
and lifted cyber hacking to a sphere of actual war.
But Australian Defence Minister Smith said the cyber threat
was "a real, evolving and a growing" test to Australia's
national security defences.
"It comes from a wide range of sources, and from adversaries
possessing a broad range of skills," he said.
(Editing by Ed Davies)