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Attacker steals ‘old passwords’ from Oz defence academy site

Security fail sparks usual hypegasm

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An attack on Australian Defence Force Academy systems operated by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), has spilled 20,000 user records.

The systems were compromised in November, with UNSW notifying staff and students within a day, but has only now come to light.

The attacker, whose “Darwinaire” tag was also seen in a claimed attack on Amazon UK in early November, says the Website took only minutes to reveal its secrets, according to the Sydney Morning Herald (of course, an attacker’s statements about their own prowess may be considered equivocal).

In an e-mail sent to students and staff, posted here, UNSW says it expected the impact of the attack to be “minimal”, explaining that some IDs and passwords were “historical” and others related to a system that has since been replaced.

However, since e-mail addresses can easily be inferred from user names, the university warned that users may receive targeted spam or phishing attacks, or that the names may be used to attempt identity theft.

The attack has spawned national “hack attack” paranoia as a “national security failure” (according to RMIT’s Dr Mark Gregory speaking to The Conversation) and the SMH headlining the attack as “Australia’s worst hacking attack”.

While the publication of 20,000 user IDs has to be regarded as embarrassing, previous attacks known to Vulture South have sent target companies to the wall, going back as far as the 1990s. A more measured assessment of the attack has been penned by Sophos’ Paul Ducklin here, who notes that while the breach is serious, “no juicy Defence secrets” were involved.

Vulture South is also curious as to why the ADFA systems held 20,000 user IDs, when the academy’s annual intake numbers in the hundreds. We will update this story should ADFA respond to our query. ®

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