Australia spy chief says new headquarters safe amid reports of Chinese cyberspying

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's spy chief has declared the nation's new intelligence headquarters secure after reports that Chinese hackers stole the building's top secret blueprints.

Speaking for the first time since the reports aired on Monday, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director-general David Irvine said security would meet "very, very high standards".

He would not confirm or deny whether Chinese hackers had obtained the floor plan and cable layouts for the security and communications system of the Canberra building.

"We incur all sorts of risks if intelligence operation matters are aired in public," he told a parliamentary hearing late on Thursday.

"Can I just assure you though, that I am satisfied that the security of the ASIO building is, and will be, meeting the very, very high standards that are required of a building of that nature."

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on a cyber attack on a contractor linked to the new Canberra headquarters of ASIO which it said was traced to a server in China.

Beijing has said it was "very difficult to find the origin of hacker attacks", with foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei questioning "where the evidence is for the relevant media to make such reports".

The news came as a Pentagon report also accused Chinese hackers of accessing US weapons designs as part of a large-scale cyber spying campaign against top US defence contractors and government agencies.

China described these as "misjudgements".

In his comments, Mr Irvine said ASIO had also reviewed the terror threat to Australia following the hacking to death of a British soldier in London but concluded it should remain at medium - a level indicating an attack is feasible and could occur.

"Some sort of crippling fear of a terrorist attack should not dominate the way Australians live their lives," he said. "Nevertheless we should all ... continue to be alert to the fact that there ... will be a small number of people within our midst who still talk and some aspire to walk the language of terrorism."

Mr Irvine said the "threat from home-grown lone actor terrorists, or small localised groups who are often largely self-radicalised and see it as some sort of religious or political obligation to conduct an attack" remained".

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