Flamin’ mongrels get away with sensitive defence info

Published: 12 October 2017

The Project Alf the hacker
The Project Alf the hacker
You're watching The Project Alf the hacker Revelations about a defence contractor being hacked have come with revelations about lax security standards - and the soap opera linked codename investigators have been using.

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‘Alf’s Mystery Happy Fun Time’ leaves government puzzled

Details on how Alf downloaded the Gold Logie of defence info
Image via Stilgherrian/Twitter

The federal government admits it still doesn't know who managed to hack technical information about new fighter jet and navy vessels more than a year ago.

But Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne insists the data obtained from an Adelaide defence contractor was only commercially sensitive and not "classified" military information.

The hack included about 30 gigabytes of restricted information on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, C130 Hercules aircraft and the P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft.

The Australian Signals Directorate confirmed that the hacker had access to the data between July and November 2016, a period they referred to as ‘Alf’s Mystery Happy Fun Time’, referring to the hacker by the codename ALF in an obtuse reference to the character played by Ray Meagher for decades on soap opera Home and Away.

My Pyne said it was possible the hacker was an employee of a rival company.

"I don't know who did it... it could be one of a number of different actors. It could be a state actor, a non-state actor," Mr Pyne told ABC radio on Thursday.

Or it could be a great actor: Ray Meagher, playing Alf Stewart. Stone the crows, the bait shop could be just a front!

ASD incident response manager Mitchell Clarke told a conference in Sydney on Wednesday the hackers targeted a small "mum and dad type" aerospace engineering company with about 50 employees in July 2016.

The firm was subcontracted four levels down from defence contracts and had only one IT person.

Although the hacker exploited a vulnerability in an unpatched application, Mr Clarke explained they could also have gotten access via the Internet due to “sloppy” security and not changing default credentials on their web admin portal.

That meant the admin account had password “admin”, and the guest had password “guest”. Strewth. What a flamin’ galah.

Mr Clarke said the information hacked on the new Navy ships included a diagram in which you could zoom in on the captain's chair and see that it was one metre away from the navigation chair.

Mr Pyne says the incident is a reminder for businesses to take their cyber security very seriously.

"This attack ... is a salutary reminder to everyone in the industry and the government about this kind of behaviour going on," he said.

"Fortunately, the data that was taken was commercial data, not military data, but it's still very serious and we will get to the bottom of it."

Mr Pyne warns cyber-attacks of this type are being attempted all the time and conceded some will be successful.

He rejected claims the federal government was to blame for the small enterprise having "lax" cyber security.

The prime minister's adviser on cyber security Alastair MacGibbon says there is a range of ways the attacker could have got in, including default passwords.

"It's a third-party supply chain issue," he said.

"I suspect defence contractors around the country will be looking at their systems; I hope they are."

with AAP
© 2017 AAP