Why did the Chinese want to hack the Bureau of Meteorology?

THIS morning Malcolm Turnbull confirmed there was serious attempt at hacking the Bureau of Meteorology last year. 

"I can confirm reports that the Bureau of Meteorology suffered a significant cyber intrusion which was first discovered early last year, and the Department of Parliamentary Services suffered a similar intrusion in recent years," he told the ABC.

"Those organisations have worked hard with the experts at the Australian Cyber Security Centre to understand and fix the vulnerabilities."

He also reportedly said Australia has the capability to hit back if things get heated on the internet.

"An offensive cyber capability housed in the Australian signals directorate provides another option for Government to respond," Mr Turnbull said. 

"The use of such a capability is subject to stringent legal oversight."

The hacking attempts are believed to have originated in China, however, exactly what motivated them has never been made clear in part because the hack was denied by the Federal Government for months. 

Jill Slay is the Director of the Centre of Australian Cyber Security and was on hand when Mr Turnbull confirmed the hack this morning.

"I asked questions when I saw this one," she said. 

"If you get into that website then you have a platform you can use to attack sites that use that information.

"So all of a sudden that information isn't just access to the weather forecasting data, it's a gateway to Defence systems or air-traffic control systems."

However Ms Slay stressed she had no specific information to suggest this was what the hackers were intending. 

"There are two main types of hack, a targeted attack and an exploratory hack," she said. 

"I'd suggest this was more like the latter - the Chinese seem to be like hoovers gathering information and then making decisions on whether or not it's useful later."

The cause of the breach is widely held to have been a system error. 

Ms Slay said second breach would have been similar to what occurs when somebody opens a Trojan horse file attached to an email.

"Foreign hackers, especially when they're employed by governments tend to be very well educated and very sophisticated," she said.

"There's a lot of people making a lot of money off of this." 

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