China: Australian intelligence officials have weighed in on the cyber-attack on the Australian National University (ANU) in which a significant amount of data from the last 19 years was compromised. The breach resulted in mostly personal data about those enrolled at and working for ANU being compromised, as well as academic records. Intelligence officials from Australia have weighed in and have stated that China is one of a few nations or organizations capable of the attack. The data which was accessed would be invaluable from an intelligence aspect, as it would be helpful in recruiting intelligence assets based in Australia, and at ANU where they would have access to national security information. Financial data, family history, extracurricular interests, and academic aptitude are all valuable pieces of information when looking to recruit a foreign intelligence asset, especially one who may have access to national security information or research tied to national security. If this truly was the purpose behind the attack, it would also explain why research data appears to have remained untouched in the intrusion. An attempt to access research data may have been seen as too great a risk, being that it would increase the likelihood of the intrusion being discovered.
Recruiting an asset who has authorized access and can obtain the information freely without scrutiny is always preferable over risking being caught attempting to access sensitive information directly.