ASIO director-general of security Mike Burgess says the agency knows more than it can say publicly about cyber attacks on local universities. 

Mr Burgess has spoken at a parliamentary inquiry into national security risks in the higher education sector, and says ASIO has worked out who was behind the 2018 attack on the Australian National University (ANU).

“I do know who was behind it but I would not say that publicly because I don’t believe that’s my role to do so,” Mr Burgess said.

“My organisation’s role is to identify threats and help reduce the harm from that. 

“Public attribution of that is not for the director-general [of] security alone. There are many other factors that the government must take into account when they decide on how they deal with that particular problem.”

The attack saw hackers access almost 20 years’ worth of personal data on ANU staff, students and visitors, after gaining access for a period of several weeks. 

Another major local university, RMIT, was hacked last month.

Mr Burgess said he had less information about that event. 

“I genuinely don’t know who that is at this stage because it’s not reached my level - not to say someone in my organisation is not working that problem,” he said.

Marc Ablong, deputy secretary for national resilience and cyber security at the Home Affairs department, said the specifics of the RMIT attack “are still under investigation so we wouldn’t want to prejudice our ability to make any judgements about where that’s come from and who’s involved in it until such time as we’ve got the forensic information to be able to determine exactly what’s happened and when.”