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Wednesday, 04 March 2020 10:10

Defence plays down report of likely recruitment database breach Featured

Defence plays down report of likely recruitment database breach Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The Australian Department of Defence has played down a report by the ABC claiming that private details of defence force members could have been compromised in a breach of what it described as "a highly sensitive military database".

A Defence spokesperson told iTWire, in response to a query, that due to a potential security concern, "some elements of the Defence Force Recruiting Network were proactively taken offline on 2 February. Normal operation resumed on 12 February".

The ABC report said the database contained the details of "tens of thousands of ADF members" and it was "taken offline and quarantined from other military networks in February, while IT specialists worked to contain an apparent security breach".

The Defence spokesperson said an investigation did not identify any evidence that information had been compromised.

The hosting of the database was outsourced to the American company ManpowerGroup in 2003. The contract was extended for two years in 2019.

Contacted for comment, Lizzie Allen, sales and marketing director for ManpowerGroup Australia, said: "ManpowerGroup Australia is aware of a potential issue identified with the Defence Force Recruiting Network, requiring Defence to proactively take elements of this network offline.

"All elements of the DFRN have since been restored to full operations. All inquiries should be directed to Defence."

The ABC cited a source "familiar with the investigation" as saying that suspicions about the security of the database had arisen shortly before Christmas.

It also quoted Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, the head of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, as describing the incident as a "very concerning development".

In February last year, it was revealed that the networks at the Federal Parliament had been infiltrated. A report later said Australian intelligence officials had concluded China was behind the breach, but had kept it quiet to avoid any problems in the bilateral trade relationship.

In June last year, the Australian National University suffered a massive data breach which led to the exposure of personal details of staff, students and visitors over the previous 19 years.

In October, the ANU released a report about the attack, giving a detailed timeline but no attribution for the hack or a possible reason as to why it was undertaken.

The ANU also had its cyber defences breached in July 2018.

Contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra said accusations against Beijing had been flung around on various occasions. "We challenge the so-called Defence insider or intelligence sources to come up with further evidence," the spokesperson added.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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