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Australian warships under threat from cyber attack, French industry allies warn

 
November 22nd 2017
Australian warships are facing an increasing threat from cyber attack, allies warn.

And it’s not just warships — cybersecurity is becoming the biggest vulnerability across all defence systems and civilian institutions.

The Advertiser has previously revealed that all defence companies can expect cyber attacks, and that China and Russia are the culprits behind most of them.

French defence giant Thales has warned that surface ships — which include our Anzac Class frigates and will include our $30 billion Future Frigate fleet — are particularly vulnerable.

France is not only a NATO ally but Australia’s partner in building the $50 billion Future Submarines, while French companies are intimately involved in a range of Defence projects.

Thales builds critical parts of Australia’s defence vehicles including the Hawkei and Bushmaster protected vehicles, minesweepers and software systems.

Vice president of undersea operations Alexis Morel said they were investing heavily throughout their portfolio to tackle the threat for submarines and surface ships.

“Whenever navies are faced with … high-intensity conflict, cybersecurity has come on top of the list as a vulnerability,” he said. “There is a cybersecurity threat. That’s a given. That is particularly true of surface ships.”

Mr Morel said they deployed every resource possible to stay secure.

“We are working very hard to ensure the cybersecurity of all our products particularly those that are networked into combat management systems,” he said.

Meanwhile a French insider very close to the alliance that includes Australia said in the future there will be cyberweapons used in conjunction with conventional weapons as cyber attacks increase.

“We will face more and more attacks, or preparations for attacks of this kind in the future and we have to prepare for that,” he said.

There is clear frustration on the part of the French that they have not got Russia and China on board to define international laws in cyberspace.

“We do not feel that those countries are ready to go a step further in defining concrete rules for behaving in cyberspace,” the insider said.

“It is very tempting for attackers to use cyberweapons because you’re nearly invisible (and there are) major consequences of the attack but little risk of being hacked back.

“You can imagine anything from accessing the command and control system of a nuclear power plant (to targeting) every sector of the economy. Energy, health, so on. The electoral system.”

Countries had to work out how to avoid attack, defend themselves, and if necessary go on the attack themselves, he said.

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