Australia’s political parties targeted by ‘state actor’

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Harrison, said on Monday its main political parties and parliament were hit by a “malicious intrusion” into their computer systems.

According to Harrison, the cyberattack, which came to light two weeks ago, was carried out by a “sophisticated state actor,” the BBC reported.

According to the report, Harrison insisted, there was no evidence of any electoral interference, according to the report. At first, the suspected hack had only involved parliament’s servers, but soon after it was discovered the attack was more widespread.

“During the course of this work, we also became aware that the networks of some political parties – Liberal, Labor, and Nationals – have also been affected,” Mr. Morrison was quoted as saying in the BBC report.

The Australian prime minister did not name the country that he believes could be behind the attack but said the hack is currently being investigated by the Australian Cybersecurity Centre.

“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, ” said Alastair MacGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Potential suspects

The Australian government has faced several cyber-attacks over the years, with analysts attributing the blame to nations like China.

Mr. Fergus Hanson, a cyber-security expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said he would put China “at the top” of the list of possible suspects but said it he “wouldn’t rule out” Russia either.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang fired back by denying these accusations. He said these claims are “groundless” and “made up out of thin air with ulterior motives”.

Shuang also urged the press to “stop the words and actions” that can harm “China’s bilateral relations with relevant countries”.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre said it is not yet sure whether any data has been stolen as investigations into the breach are still on-going.

Mr. Morrison, who leads the Liberal-National coalition, said: “We have put in place a number of measures to ensure the integrity of our electoral system.”

“Source of grave concern”

Labor leader, Bill Shorten, also commented on the hack, by saying it is a source “of grave concern”.

“We cannot be complacent and, as this most recent activity reported by the prime minister indicates, we are not exempt or immune,” he said.

According to the BBC report, the nation’s weather and statistics agencies were supposedly attacked in 2015 and 2016. There was also an attempt to hack the government’s systems in 2011.  

After the hack in 2011, officials said there was no evidence that any data was stolen or accessed. At the time, politicians’ passwords had been reset as a precaution measure.


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