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Australian universities teaching students in China ‘offensive’ cyber hacking tactics sparks 'alarmin

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been called on to investigate Australian universities teaching “offensive” hacking skills to students from partner Chinese institutions.

By Yashee Sharma

Digital Reporter

March 7, 2023

Cyber security experts are warning Australian universities may be unknowingly arming our adversaries with hacking skills. They say partnerships with Chinese institutions are undermining efforts to bolster cyber security and leaving Australian banks and other infrastructure vulnerable to attacks. Shadow Cyber Security… The federal government has been called on the investigate Australian universities who are teaching students from partner Chinese institutions cyber hacking skills.

Shadow minister for cyber security and countering foreign interference James Paterson appeared on Sky News Australia to warn that universities currently in partnership with China could be a national security breach.

Mr Paterson said it gave students in China insights into tactics that could potentially be used against Australia.

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“It appears that a number of Australian universities have partner relationships with equivalent Chinese institutions where they are teaching Chinese students some offensive cyber hacking techniques and tactics and this is pretty alarming given the national security and cyber environment that we’re operating in,” he told host Tom Connell on Tuesday.

“Australia struggles enough as it is with the challenges of cyber security.”

Some universities that currently have partnerships in place with China include the Australian National University, University of Sydney, University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne.

Shadow minister for cyber security and countering foreign interference Senator James Paterson was concerned Australian taxpayers were paying for Australian universities to teach students in China offensive cyber security tactics. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

The shadow minister warned that the students in China trained in Australia’s cyber vulnerabilities would eventually work for Chinese agencies when they graduate, as many do.

“Australian taxpayer’s money or the money of student fees paid by Australian student fees should not be going to subside the upskilling at scale of our potential adversaries who might then go work for a Chinese intelligence agency,” he said.

"Cyber agencies in China are major employers of cyber security graduates, that's not a surprising thing."

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Mr Paterson revealed whistleblowers have leaked that university course content focuses on Australia's cyber weaknesses and instructions on how to navigate security software.

He said while a number of laws were already in place to capture national security breaches, it was not currently addressing the bilateral relationship between educational organisations.

He claimed the University Foreign Interference Taskforce had oversight of the field of partnerships with offshore universities but currently did not have the matter on its radar.

"If there is sensitive cyber research going on I think we do have to think very carefully about whether that should be restricted," he said.


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