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Cyber attacks constant, Australia says

Australia's attorney-general today said cyber attacks had become so frequent that government and private networks were under "continuous threat", testing online security defences.

world Updated: Jun 03, 2011 10:48 IST

Australia's attorney-general on Friday said cyber attacks had become so frequent that government and private networks were under "continuous threat", testing online security defences.

But Robert McClelland declined to single out China, at the centre of hacking allegations from Internet giant Google, saying the "Australian government's position is not to identify a source of suspected espionage."

"The reality is espionage can be unquestionably undertaken by other countries, by organised criminals, or indeed by business competitors," he said.

McClelland said it was "unquestionably" in Australia's interest to stay ahead of the evolving, and mounting, cyber threats, as he announced a white paper on the future of Australia's Internet security to be published in 2012.

"Security agencies are finding malicious activity is increasing to a point where systems in both government and the private sector are under continuous threat," he said in a speech to business leaders on cyber crime.

"The cyber threat to Australia is real, evolving and continuing to test our defences."

Foreign intelligence agencies, criminal organisations and commercial competitors were all to blame, with electronic spying cheap and low risk but with huge potential gains, he added.

Authorities estimate cyber crime worldwide to be worth several times more than the illegal drugs racket.

Woodside Petroleum's chief Don Voelte on Monday said the energy giant had suffered attacks from "everywhere", including eastern Europe, Russia and China, with Shell Australia also admitting cyber assaults.

The computers of Australia's prime minister, foreign and defence ministers were all suspected of being hacked in March, with China under suspicion.

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

China also angrily rejected suggestions from Google this week that a cyber spying campaign targetting the Gmail accounts of senior US officials, military personnel, journalists and Chinese activists had originated in China.