China steals new Australia spy agency blueprints: Report

SYDNEY (AFP) - Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Tuesday insisted ties with China would not be hurt by a report that Chinese hackers have stolen top secret blueprints to Australia's new intelligence agency headquarters.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the documents taken in the cyber hit included cabling layouts for the huge building's security and communications systems, its floor plan, and its server locations.

"It's got absolutely no implications for a strategic partnership," Mr Carr said, without confirming or denying China was behind the attack.

"We have enormous areas of cooperation with China."

The state broadcaster's investigative Four Corners programme said the attack on a contractor involved with building the new Canberra headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was traced to a server in China.

It cited security experts as saying the theft exposed the agency to being spied on and may be responsible for a cost-blowout and delays to the opening of the building, which was supposed to be operational last month.

Mr Des Ball, from the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, said the blueprints would show which rooms were likely to used for sensitive conversations, and how to put devices into the walls.

"Once you get those building plans you can start constructing your own wiring diagrams, where the linkages are through telephone connections, through wi-fi connections," he was quoted as saying.

The report, which did not say when the alleged theft took place, comes amid deepening concern about aggressive state-sponsored hacking by China.

In 2011, the computers of Australia's prime minister, foreign minister and defence minister were all suspected of being hacked, with the attacks reportedly originating in China.

Beijing dismissed the allegations as "groundless and made out of ulterior purposes".

At the time, Canberra said cyber attacks had become so frequent that government and private networks were under "continuous threat".

Earlier this year, computer networks at the Reserve Bank of Australia were hacked, with some reportedly infected by Chinese-developed malware searching for sensitive information.

In 2012 Chinese telecoms giant Huawei was barred from bidding for contracts on Australia's ambitious A$36 billion (S$44 billion) broadband rollout due to fears of cyber attacks.

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