Federal government agencies reportedly believe China is behind large-scale cyber attacks on Australia.
During a Friday press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to speculate who was to blame.
But senior sources told the ABC they suspected China was responsible for the attacks.
The national broadcaster reported China was seeking to collect intelligence, “develop the capacity to disrupt critical infrastructure, and steal both intellectual property and data in Australia”.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Peter Jennings said China was the most likely candidate who would carry out these sorts of attacks.
“I think you’ve got to sort of go through a check list of factors, which is not just the capability issues that Morrison talks about but also the interest and intent,” the institute’s executive director told The Australian.
“The Russians could do it. The North Koreans could do it, but neither of them have an interest on the scale of this. They have no interest in state and territory government or universities.
“So that leads me to conclude that the only country that has got the interest to go as broad and as deep as this and the only country with the sophistication and the size of the intelligence establishment to do it, is China. That’s very clear.”
Scott Morrison won’t speculate on cyber attacks
This new report from the ABC follows Mr Morrison confirming Australian organisations are being targeted by “sophisticated, state-based cyber” attacks.
The prime minister confirmed on Friday the attacks had been launched across a “range of sectors across all levels of government, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure”.
“We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used,” he said.
Mr Morrison would not say which country was behind the attacks.
Asked if it was China, he said: “The Australian government is not making any public attribution about these matters.
“We are very confident that this is the actions of a state-based actor.
“We have not gone any further than that. I can’t control what speculation others might engage in.”
After being pressed further on who he thought was responsible, Mr Morrison later said: “There aren’t too many state-based actors who have those capabilities.”