Secret F-35, P-8, C-130 data stolen in Australian defence contractor hack


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In November 2016, the Australian Indicators Directorate (ASD) was alerted by a “companion organisation” that an attacker had received entry to the network of a 50-individual aerospace engineering agency that subcontracts to the Office of Defence.

Limited technical information on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, the C-130 transportation aircraft, the Joint Direct Assault Munition (JDAM) intelligent bomb kit, and “a several Australian naval vessels” was between the delicate knowledge stolen from a small Australian defence contractor in 2016.

The top secret information was limited less than the International Targeted visitors in Arms Rules (ITAR), the US program made to regulate the export of defence- and navy-associated systems, in accordance to Mitchell Clarke, an incident response manager at the ASD who labored on the case.

A single document was a wireframe diagram of “a single of the navy’s new ships”. A viewer could “zoom in down to the captain’s chair and see that it really is, you know, 1 metre absent from nav chair”, Clarke reported.

The knowledge theft was initial noted on Tuesday as portion of the 2017 Menace Report from the Australian Cyber Safety Centre (ACSC). Little information was specified at the time. The target was described as a “small Australian firm with contracting one-way links to countrywide security assignments”. The attacker had “sustained entry to the network for an extended period of time of time” and had stolen a “important amount of money of knowledge”.

Clarke supplied considerably far more detail in his presentation to the countrywide conference of the Australian Information and facts Safety Association (AISA) in Sydney on Wednesday.

ASD named this highly developed persistent danger (APT) actor “APT ALF”, just after a character in the very long-operating Australian Television set cleaning soap opera Household and Away.

The attacker had in fact been in the network given that at least mid July 2016, with knowledge exfiltration beginning all around two weeks later on. ASD refers to the 3 months between the attacker attaining entry, and the ASD getting to be knowledgeable of it, as “Alf’s Thriller Content Enjoyment Time”.

The attacker would have had minimal problems attaining entry.

The victim’s network was small. A single individual managed all IT-associated features, and they’d only been in the job for nine months. Substantial workers turnover was regular.

There was no protective DMZ network, no typical patching routine, and a popular Community Administrator account password on all servers. Hosts had numerous world wide web-dealing with expert services.

Access was to begin with received by exploiting a 12-thirty day period-outdated vulnerability in the company’s IT Helpdesk Portal, which was mounting the company’s file server using the Domain Administrator account. Lateral movement using those people exact same credentials inevitably gave the attacker entry to the domain controller and the remote desktop server, and to e-mail and other delicate information.

“This is just not unheard of,” Clarke reported. “Only about 12 months outdated, if you appear at authorities, that’s not that out of date, however.”

The attacker needn’t have bothered with that, even so. The ASD’s investigation discovered that world wide web-dealing with expert services still had their default passwords, admin::admin and guest::guest.

An critical component of this incident is that a small firm, with sources that were obviously inadequate specified the sensitivity of the knowledge they held, still managed to obtain and maintain ITAR certification.

According to Clarke, an software for ITAR certification is ordinarily only “two or 3 pages”, and asks only basic concerns about organisations’ security posture.

“A single of the discovering outcomes from this distinct case review for at least the Australian authorities is that we require to locate a way to start to be a minimal little bit far more granular in our contracting to mandate what variety of security controls are required,” Clarke reported.

“That’s not for my team to remedy, but that’s going to be an final result of this kind of thing.”

Clarke emphasised the relevance of subsequent most effective tactics to safe networks, which includes the ASD’s Necessary 8 strategies to mitigate cybersecurity incidents.


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