According to The Australian, cyber spies from Beijing and Moscow are believed to have mounted repeated cyber attacks in recent months. The hacking attempts have been aimed at the submarine builders in Germany, France and Japan bidding for the $20 billion contract to build the new fleet. The bidders are holding highly sensitive information about the Royal Australian Navy’s technical requirements for its new-generation submarines.
After the repeated hack attacks were noticed, the bidders switched hand deliveries of the most sensitive information. Manfred Klein, campaign manager Australia for Germany’s TKMS, said at the company’s submarine shipyard in the German port of Kiel: “We have about 30 to 40 (hacking) attempts per night, that’s what our IT people say.”
Mr Klein said the cyber attacks were all directed at the submarine facility in Kiel and came at a time when the shipyard had a team of 120 people finalising its design for the future Australian submarine.
“The Australian government has raised it with us, and they think it’s significant,” said TKMS Australia board member Jim Duncan, who is helping put together the German bid.
TKMS Australia chairman John White said the attempted industrial espionage was to be expected on such a sensitive and important defence project. “They’re trying to get into everyone’s communications,” Dr White said. “Espionage and breaches of security … you just assume it is happening. Everybody is in that game. It’s a space that people play in. We don’t suspect anyone, we suspect everybody.”
TKMS declined to say which countries were behind the attempted hackings, but all three foreign bidders privately believe China is leading the push to glean information about the submarine project. Other strategic rivals, including Russia, are also suspected of recent hacking attempts and it is also possible the three bidders for the lucrative contract are seeking to spy on each other.