Hacker codenamed 'Alf' from Home and Away stole data from defence subcontractor

Hacker group codenamed 'Alf' after famous Home and Away character steals sensitive information about Australia's multi-billion dollar fighter jet program

An Australian Cyber Security Centre spokesperson said the information released by the ASD staffer, who works for the centre, was commercially sensitive but unclassified.

Clarke said the attacker accessed the small contractor's systems for five months in 2016, and the "methodical, slow and deliberate", choice of target suggested a nation-state actor could be behind the raid.

Intelligence agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) revealed details of the hack, through the technology news website ZDNet, on Wednesday, after it was flagged on Tuesday by the minister for cyber security, Dan Tehan.

"It could be one of a number of different actors", Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Thursday.

More specifically, Clarke said initial access was gained by exploiting a 12-month-old vulnerability in the sub-contractor's IT Helpdesk Portal.

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.

The hacker was dubbed "Alf" in honour of the Home and Away character.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was "a bit lost for words that you've got the government sort of just airily dismissing the hacking of defence information".

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"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. "The ASD and the cyber security office immediately swung into action", he said.

The data was not classified, he told ABC Radio, in an attempt to downplay the seriousness of the breach and gloss over the fact that the Australian defence supply chain is far from secure. "If you have default credentials, then you are basically rolling out the red carpet and issuing an invitation".

View of the SRC F-35 jet from above.

About 30 gigabytes of data was stolen, including information on Australia's $17 billion Joint Strike Fighter program, and $4 billion P-8 surveillance aircraft project.

In the case of Boeing, hackers had been accessing its networks for at least a year before the intrusion was detected and blocked, according to court documents.

"Su Bin admitted to playing an important role in a conspiracy, originating in China, to illegally access sensitive military data, including data relating to military aircraft that are indispensable in keeping our military personnel safe", John P. Carlin, then the USA assistant attorney general for national security, said at the time.

But US contractors have also been hit including Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications and Northrop Grumman.

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