Date
22 September 2019
A 'sophisticated state actor' is believed to be behind a hacking incident that affected Australia's major political parties, PM Scott Morrison says. Photo: Bloomberg
A 'sophisticated state actor' is believed to be behind a hacking incident that affected Australia's major political parties, PM Scott Morrison says. Photo: Bloomberg

Australia accuses foreign govt of cyber-attack on lawmakers

A cyber-attack on Australian lawmakers that breached the networks of major political parties was probably carried out by a foreign government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.

“Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity,” Morrison told parliament without naming any suspects, Reuters reports.

As Australia heads for an election due by May, lawmakers were told this month to urgently change their passwords after the cyber intelligence agency detected an attack on the national parliament’s computer network.

The hackers breached the networks of major political parties, Morrison said, as he issued an initial assessment by investigators.

“We also became aware that the networks of some political parties, Liberal, Labor and Nationals have also been affected,” the prime minister said. 

Morrison did not reveal what information was accessed, but he said there was no evidence of election interference.

Investors are still securing local networks, said Alastair MacGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the government department responsible for online security.

“Our political institutions represent high-value targets,” MacGibbon told reporters in the capital, Canberra.

“We will continue to work with our friends and colleagues, both here and overseas, to work out who is behind it and hopefully their intent.”

Analysts have said China, Russia and Iran were the most likely culprits.

Ties with China have deteriorated since 2017, after Canberra accused Beijing of meddling in its domestic affairs. Both countries have since sought to mend relations, but Australia remains wary of China.

Tension rose this month after Australia rescinded the visa of a prominent Chinese businessman, just months after barring Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to its 5G broadband network.

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