Petaling Jaya, Malaysia (PressExposure) April 15, 2011 -- Many governments around the world are on an ongoing battle with Internet hackers. One of the latest attacks against a government network involved the computer network of the European Parliament. Experts reported that the same hackers that hit the French Finance Ministry last month may be behind this security breach.
The Parliament security breach also shares characteristics with a highly sophisticated and skilled attack on March 23 that hit the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the executive and diplomatic bodies, respectively, of the Brussels-based European Union (EU).
Security analysts believe the attack was launched by hackers possibly based in China. That incident came one day prior to an EU summit in which leaders discussed the European-U.S. involvement in Libya, to which the Russian and Chinese are opposed.
A Parliament spokesperson stated, "Information technology services are working day and night to investigate and have put in place some security measures," including blocking email access via Web browsers.
In other high-profile hacking news, the parliamentary computer of Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been hacked, and that the attackers may have stolen thousands of emails from Gillard and at least 10 other ministers, with China under suspicion, reports said Tuesday.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph said American intelligence officials tipped off the government that several thousand emails may have been accessed from the computers of at least 10 ministers.
As well as Gillard, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defense Minister Stephen Smith's email accounts were also hacked. The paper said the spying occurred over more than a month, beginning in February.
"Four separate government sources confirmed that they had been told Chinese intelligence agencies were among a list of foreign hackers that are under suspicion," it said. One of the sources said the revelations were "deeply concerning".
Security experts cited by another News Limited newspaper, The Australian, said they believed the hackers may have been looking for clues on government attitudes to major resource projects.
Intelligent Risk chief executive Neil Fergus said interest in Australian commercial secrets may have prompted the attacks.
"There are massive resources projects on the drawing board in Australia, they loom very large in the thinking of a number of other countries," he said.
"Whether we green-light projects is of critical importance. I would not understate the possibility of that, given Australia's resources boom and its importance to a number of our key trading partners."
Attorney-General Robert McClelland refused to confirm or deny the incident.
"Australia's security and intelligence agencies, as a matter of course, work closely and co-operatively with their international counterparts on cyber security.
China, meanwhile, denied the claims. "Any accusations against the Chinese government are believed to be groundless and made out of ulterior purposes," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.
The cyber attacks are believed to have compromised the Australian Parliament House email network, the less secure of two networks used by MPs. Ministers use a departmental network for more high-security communications.
A report from the Australian National Audit Office, meanwhile, said more than 10 percent of passwords used in Gillard's department could be easily broken in an hour by hackers using "brute force".
Public and civil organizations need to defend the online environment by continuing to attend information security training, conduct more strategic research to identify and assess cyber crime and national security risks, and attend more information security conference.
EC-Council, a leading IT certification body, takes the issue of cyber security very seriously and organizes various information security conference that discuss these impending issues. One of such conferences, Hacker Halted, provides a platform for IT security professionals to assess the best practices in acquiring, implementing, managing and measuring information security. At this hacker conference, they will be able to participate in discussion and information security training, and will have the unique opportunity to assess and be better informed about the latest technologies and the best solutions that are being showcased all in one place. Hacker Halted is unlike any other IT security conference; it helps IT security professionals deal with increasing threats, compliance and even regulatory issues.