Beijing: As the Chinese government rejects claims it is behind the cyber attack on the Australian Parliament, Chinese research shows China is the world's biggest target of cyber attacks.
Beijing security firm Knownsec Information Technology reported on Monday that Chinese organisations suffered an average of 800 million cyber attacks daily in 2018, hitting a peak of 4.9 billion a day in August.
Most (97 per cent) were by domestic hackers, but a growing percentage came from overseas, the report said.
Tens of millions of attacks each day came from the US, South Korea and Japan with government and financial websites more likely to be targets.
The annual report claimed China suffered the worst rate of distributed denial of service attacks (DDOS) in the world last year . But scanning and backdoor intrusions made up the majority of attacks.
"The pressure on cyber attacks on government websites is increasing. Especially during sensitive events such as sudden political and military incidents, there will be a significant increase in attacks on government websites," the Knownsec report said.
In a mirror-like claim to those often directed at China by western democracies, the report, intended for Chinese business executives, warned: "Some hidden professional hacking organisations have carried out long-term infiltration to Chinese government, military, financial and other industry websites".
Australian think-tanks blame China for the sophisticated cyber attack on Australia’s Parliament and major political parties. The federal government has not attributed blame but embarked on an investigation to find the "state actor" responsible.
Director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, Chen Hong, said blaming China was "purely paranoid".
"Observers here are getting increasingly fed up with such ceaseless slandering, finger-pointing against China, while no evidence could substantiate their accusations," he said from Shanghai.
He said "hacking is an international criminal activity that has been affecting many countries. China has been a victim and China is developing its own capabilities to counter hackers."
Kaspersky Labs founder Eugene Kaspersky told an Internet World Conference in 2017 that 80 to 90 per cent of the "highly complicated, very professional malicious projects" his researchers uncovered each year were state-sponsored attacks.
"We don't do attribution because attribution in cyber space is very complicated and very easy to point the finger at the wrong source," the Russian computer scientist said. US government agencies are banned from using Kaspersky software.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chungying last month hit back at claims China was hacking international organisations by citing the PRISM program, the Equation Group and WannaCry ransomware which she said were "the result of a particular country's attempt to develop offensive cyber tools, that wreaked havoc globally".
The Equation Group is a hacking group that was alleged by Kaspersky Labs in 2015 to be linked to the United States National Security Agency (NSA).
Prism is a program used by NSA to tap communications in popular western social media apps.
WannaCry – which was ultimately attributed to a North Korean hacker – used stolen NSA code, Wired magazine has reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday in response to Australian media reports that China was behind the Parliament attack: “With cyberspace being a highly virtual one, filled with multiple actors whose behaviour is difficult to trace, one should present abundant evidence when investigating and determining the nature of a cyberspace activity instead of making baseless speculations and firing indiscriminate shots at others."
Kirsty Needham is China Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.