21 Nov 2018

No 'smoking gun' evidence of Chinese cyber attacks in NZ

2:30 pm on 21 November 2018

A cyber security specialist says he's seen no evidence to suggest China has been attacking New Zealand businesses.

Hacker, cyber attack, (File photo)

Photo: 123RF

A joint Fairfax Media/Nine News investigation says it has confirmation that China's Ministry of State Security has been increasing its cyber attacks on Australian businesses.

The attack operation is known in cyber circles as "Operation Cloud Hopper" and was first described in detail by the international consultancy PwC in a 2017 report - though it fell short of blaming China outright.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied the reports.

The attacks breach an agreement between Premier Li Keqiang and former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull not to steal each other's commercial secrets.

Head of cyber security at PwC New Zealand Adrian van Hest, who was part of the investigation, told Morning Report there was no evidence to suggest New Zealand had been targetted in the attacks.

He said he passed the information from the investigation onto the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to look into it further.

"They (GCSB) have looked out for, the fingerprint if you will, of this activity, but as far as a definitive smoking gun of a New Zealand organisation being affected, I don't have any visibility on that," he said.

Mr van Hest said Japan businesses that provide IT services to other companies were particularly targetted in the attacks.

He said by targetting those businesses, the attackers had a back door entrance to the intellectual property of their clients.

"It's perceived as getting information that helps the nation state of China, or whoever, build up their capability in an industrial domain.

"They effectively skip the whole research and investment cycle and just take how you do something."

Mr van Hest said the theory behind China's attacks is that it's systematic and that they're going after industries the country competes with.