China blamed as Australia's weather bureau hacked: Report

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's weather bureau has been hit by a major cyber attack, a report said on Wednesday (Dec 2), with insiders blaming the breach on China and saying it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix.

Hackers got inside computer systems at the Bureau of Meteorology, which owns one of the nation's largest super computers and has links to the Defence Department, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The broadcaster said putting right the hack could cost huge sums in an organisation with offices across the country and with links to a number of sensitive government departments.

It added that the bureau - which provides information on climate and weather spanning Australia and Antarctic territories - held valuable scientific research and provided a gateway to other agencies.

ABC did not detail when the attack occurred, but quoted an unnamed official as saying: "It's China." Another unnamed source added: "It could take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government was aware of the report.

"It is not the policy or practice of the government to comment on specific cases," she said in an e-mailed statement.

She said a range of adversaries including "state-sponsored actors and serious organised criminals" were motivated to attack government networks.

"The government takes any cyber attacks seriously and is currently reviewing its cyber security policy," she added.

The weather agency refused to confirm the report, saying on its website: "The bureau does not comment on security matters.

"Like all government agencies, we work closely with the Australian government security agencies.

"The bureau's systems are fully operational and the bureau continues to provide reliable, on-going access to high quality weather, climate, water and oceans information to its stakeholders."

The Australian Cyber Security Centre warned earlier this year that attempts to compromise government, business and other networks of national importance were regularly identified.

"Cyber adversaries are constantly adapting their techniques in an attempt to breach security and compromise Australian networks," the government body said in a report.

In 2013, Chinese hackers were accused of stealing the top-secret blueprints of Australia's new intelligence agency headquarters.

Two years earlier, the computers of the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister were all suspected of being hacked in attacks reportedly originating in China.