Australian and Chinese leaders have officially agreed not to conduct or support government-backed hacking during high-level diplomatic talks in Sydney on Friday.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Attorney-General George Brandis brokered the deal with their Chinese counterparts, alongside a suite of other agreements designed to tighten cooperation on security.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade today confirmed Australian and Chinese representatives had formalised the deal.
“Australia and China agreed not to conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets or confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage,” it said.
Australia and China also agreed to a framework for information sharing and potential joint law enforcement operations to stamp out transnational cybercrime.
The delegates similarly settled on a plan to exchange diplomatic delegations who would learn about the legal, IT and regulatory environments in each country “to enhance cooperation and mutual trust”.
The deals mirror similar agreements already signed between China and the US.
Industrial hacking of western businesses, including the theft of precious IP, has been estimated to cost up to US$160 billion a year.
The Chinese government has long been accused by the US government and US courts of commissioning hackers to steal IP and secrets from businesses and government organisations.
In 2014 a US court indicted five members of the Chinese military accused of “economic espionage” against large US organisations.
The theft of sensitive details on millions of US government employees from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has also been linked to China.
Locally, the Chinese government publicly denied claims it had anything to do with a 2015 breach at the Bureau of Meteorology, which the Australian Signals Directorate has attributed to a “foreign intelligence service”.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) this year warned local business to stay alert to suspected Chinese hackers targeting big business networks via their IT outsourcers.