REPORT: China was behind a cyber attack on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Chinese troops walking past Tiananmen gate. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Chinese hackers are being blamed for a cyber attack on Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, the ABC reports.

The breach is expected to cost millions of dollars to fix and is exacerbated because the BoM’s systems and data are fed into numerous government departments, including the Department of Defence.

The agency has evolved “from what was once just a straight weather service to what I would call now a more broad-based environmental intelligence agency” says the Bureau’s chief executive Robert Vertessy.

While cyber attacks on governments are quite common and can occur simply for the thrill, the BoM’s valuable data and tie-ins with other agencies, combined with the fact that this attack emanates from China suggests the motives could be both commercial and strategic, according to the ABC.

Repeated attempted hacks on a German company bidding to build Australia’s new submarines resulted in ittaking communications offline, resorting to hand-delivered messages. The company claimed to see up to 40 hacking attempts per night.

The BoM breach comes just a few months after the Chinese gained access to a US government department for over a year. The personal information of 25 million is thought to have been stolen, in addition to classified questionnaires and the results of polygraph tests.

And it’s not just government departments that are worried. Cyber hacks are becoming so prevalent that cyber security is the biggest concern among Australian insurers. Insurers are considered prime targets because of the vast trove of information they have – medical and banking records, card details and identification data.

A recent report by insurer Allianz claimed that cybercrime costs the world $US465 billion annually, as hackers inflict damage on property and reputations, steal intellectual property and personal information for fraud.

Millions of iPhone and iPad users were also recently compromised, when Chinese hackers uploaded a tainted toolset commonly used by developers to build apps. Apple quickly removed the infected apps, which included the popular messenger WeChat.