The three months during which the hackers operated undetected has been dubbed'Alf's Mystery Happy Fun Time by the ASD
The Australian Cyber Security Centre said the information released by the ASD staffer, who works for the centre, was commercially sensitive but unclassified. The hacker, he said, was codenamed Alf, after a well-known character, Alf Stewart, from the Australian TV soap opera Home and Away.
"South Australia is well placed to benefit from the Government's unprecedented $200 billion Defence investment". It's unclear whether another country or non-state actor was behind the breach but the hackers used China Chopper, a Chinese language webshell, to access the company's system.
Australian Signals Directorate incident response manager Mitchell Clarke revealed to a conference on Wednesday an aerospace engineering company with about 50 employees was compromised previous year.
Earlier this week, it emerged Australia has been subjected to 47,000 cyber incidents in the last 12 months - a 15% increase on the previous year.
"The compromise was extensive and extreme", said the official, Mitchell Clarke, in an audio recording made by a ZDNet journalist and broadcast by the ABC.
The hacked Australian Defence subcontractor lost documents on projects including the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and the P-8 Poseidon "submarine killer" plane, as well as detailed designs of Australian Navy ships.
"Analysis showed that the adversary gained access to the victim network by exploiting an internet-facing server, then using administrative credentials to move laterally within the network, where they were able to install multiple webshells - a script that can be uploaded to a webserver to enable remote administration of the machine - throughout the network to gain and maintain further access", it stated.
"This isn't uncommon", Clarke told the audience, ZDNet reported.
Clarke says the ASD began helping the company respond to the intrusion in December 2016. The ASD appears to have a sense of humor about the breach, dubbing the three months when the hacker had unfettered and unknown access to the network "Alf's Mystery Happy Fun Time".
The reference is not to the title of the American sitcom, short for "alien life form", that launched in the mid-1980s, but rather for a domestic television obsession. "It's just a thing we do", he said.
The location and manner of the intrusion is ironic, given many information security experts' longstanding recommendation that however organizations approach information security, they should always ensure they comply with the ASD's top 4 information security mitigation strategies.
"ACSC analysis confirmed that the adversary had sustained access to the network for an extended period of time and had stolen a significant amount of data", it added.
Stephen Burke, founder and CEO at training firm Cyber Risk Aware said the incident is another example of IT admin not carrying out IT security best practices.
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