Forwarded from: Christian Wright <cwat_private> http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/09/04/1062548967124.html By Philip Cornford September 5, 2003 On the night of Wednesday, August 27, two men dressed as computer technicians and carrying tool bags entered the cargo processing and intelligence centre at Sydney International Airport. The men, described as being of Pakistani-Indian-Arabic appearance, took a lift to the third floor of the Charles Ulm building in Link Road, next to the customs handling depot and the Qantas Jet Base. They presented themselves to the security desk as technicians sent by Electronic Data Systems, the outsourced customs computer services provider which regularly sends people to work on computers after normal office hours. After supplying false names and signatures, they were given access to the top-security mainframe room. They knew the room's location and no directions were needed. Inside, they spent two hours disconnecting two computers, which they put on trolleys and wheeled out of the room, past the security desk, into the lift and out of the building. The brazen theft has prompted Australia's top security agencies to conduct emergency damage audits amid fears that terrorists may have gained access to highly sensitive intelligence from the computers. The Australian Federal Police and ASIO, the two chief guardians against terrorism, fired off angry memos to customs officials, demanding to know the extent to which their top-secret operations have been compromised. The Australian Customs Service has admitted the security blunder, but told customs officers in an email that no sensitive operational information was lost. This brought angry rebuttals from customs officers who claimed that the two mainframe servers held thousands of confidential files, including top-secret communications between customs investigators and the AFP and ASIO. They point to the fact that all officers have been instructed to change passwords which give them access to the system, but a spokesman for the Customs Minister, Chris Ellison, said this was a "precautionary measure". The theft is being investigated by the AFP, which is conducting 65 counter-terrorist operations against nationalist groups in Australia and international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah. Customs officers believe the thieves had inside information because they knew how to bypass security, how to identify themselves and where to go, plus the fact that the mainframe room was regularly entered after hours for maintenance. The Community and Public Sector Union, which represents customs officers, has asked for guarantees that none of its members is at risk as a result of the theft. The union expressed fears thatthe lives of undercover agents could be jeopardised after officers claimed that customs officials were covering up the true extent of the damage. Also at risk, they said, are operations against terrorists and international drug cartels in which customs officers watch the movements of suspects and suspicious cargo in and out of the country. They stressed that terrorists had the most to gain by stealing the servers. "The servers have no value except the information they contain," an officer said. "They would have personal internal email accounts, probably the passwords for those accounts, and any information harboured within them. "Customs officers use the accounts to communicate volumes of sensitive operational material and intelligence to each other, including information from other agencies such as AFP and ASIO. This would be at risk." The spokesman for Senator Ellison said: "Extensive testing of the system is being carried out to determine whether it has been compromised by the theft. No evidence has emerged to indicate that there has been any intrusion. Customs has been advised that the servers did not contain personal, business-related or national security information. "Nevertheless, arrangements were made to change all staff passwords as a precautionary measure. All staff have been asked to report any irregularities in their access arrangements to the system. As the matter is subject to an ongoing investigation, it is inappropriate to comment further. Although there is no evidence of an intrusion, Senator Ellison has called for a full report." A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, who is responsible for ASIO, said: "This is an issue for customs. It is not a national security issue." - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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