Beijing dismisses report of cybertheft

Updated: 2013-05-29 08:10

By Agencies in Beijing and Canberra (China Daily)

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Foreign ministry calls for world cooperation to address hacking

China on Tuesday questioned media reports claiming of Chinese hackers stealing top-secret blueprints of Australia's new intelligence-agency headquarters.

China values cybersecurity and opposes hacking in any form, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news conference in response to an Australian Broadcasting Corp report about the theft. ABC said documents taken in the cybertheft included cabling layouts for the huge building's security and communications systems, its floor plan and server locations.

"Because it (a cyberattack) is technically untraceable, it is very difficult to find the source and identify the hacker," Hong said. "Therefore, we have no idea what the evidence is for their report, in which they make the claim with such certainty."

The spokesman also urged the international community to "calmly" discuss how to solve the problem, secure a peaceful, safe, open and cooperative cyberspace, and work out related rules.

"Groundless accusations won't solve the problem," he said.

This accusation is the latest in a number of reports playing up perceived cyberthreats from China, which experts say show the mistrust between China and some countries.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard declined to comment on "these unsubstantiated reports", and the country's foreign minister, Bob Carr, said on Tuesday that ties with Beijing will not be hurt by the allegation.

"It's got absolutely no implications for a strategic partnership," he said. "We have enormous areas of cooperation with China."

China currently is Australia's largest trading partner, the largest source of imports and largest export destination.

Ren Yuanzhe, a researcher at China Foreign Affairs University, said Canberra's prudent response reflects its efforts to strengthen mutual trust with China as it has been trying to get more involved in Asia.

"Cybersecurity will be an increasingly troublesome issue affecting global security, and China's relations with major countries and its neighbors, but it is also an inevitable trend for these countries to strengthen communication and cooperation, which won't be overshadowed by such allegations."

Des Ball, from the Australian National University's Strategic and Defense Studies Centre, said the blueprints show which rooms were likely to be 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.

Australian Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, the minister in charge of the spy agency, on Tuesday refused to confirm or deny the report, citing a longstanding government policy of declining to comment on security matters. Opposition parties have called for an investigation into the claim.

Carr said the government is aware of the threat of cyberattacks on national security, adding that "nothing that is being speculated about takes us by surprise".

But he refused to confirm or deny China was behind the attack since "we don't want to share with the world and potential aggressors what we know about what they might be doing, and how they might be doing it."

China Daily-AFP-AP