A four-month cyber attack by a hacker named “Alf” against an Australian defense contractor nabbed data on sophisticated U.S. weapons systems.
Using simple combinations of login names and passwords “admin; admin” and “guest; guest” while exploiting a vulnerability in the contractor’s help-desk portal, the hacker was able to freely search through the network for months. Australian military officials are referring to the breach as “Alf’s Mystery Happy Fun Time,” a reference to a character in a soap opera, “Home and Away.”
The theft, laid out by a senior Australian intelligence official during a speech Wednesday, was the third major hack of sensitive U.S. military and intelligence data to be publicized in a week.
“On Tuesday, a South Korean lawmaker said North Korean hackers had accessed a military database and stolen top-secret files, including a plan for a decapitation strike against top leaders in Pyongyang. That followed reports that hackers working for the Russian government stole details of how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends its own,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Alf’s identity isn’t known but some sources said they believe the hacker was aligned with, or working on behalf of, the Chinese government.
Analyst comment: Australia is one of the “Five Eyes” — a Western multinational intelligence-gathering and sharing network established as the Cold War began with the United States, Canada, Britain, and New Zealand. So it’s not surprising that Canberra would possess sophisticated data on U.S. defense systems and intelligence. Australia is looking to purchase 100 F-35 fighters; the hacker obtained about 30 gigabytes of data related to this planned purchase. Also, the hacker is believed to have stolen information on new warships and Boeing -built P-8 Poseidon maritime-surveillance aircraft, in the July 2016 breach.
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