Liberals, Labor hit by ‘state actor’ parliament hack

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison briefs media about the flooding situation in Queensland during a press conference in Sydney

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison briefs media about the flooding situation in Queensland during a press conference in Sydney

"Members will be aware that the Australian Cyber Security Centre recently identified a malicious intrusion into the Australian Parliament House computer network", Morrison said in a national security statement in the House of Representatives.

Australia's major political parties have been targeted during a cyber attack by a foreign government on the Australian Parliament's servers.

Mr Morrison says a "state actor" is believed responsible for the attack 10 days ago, and political parties are being offered support from the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

He said security agencies had "acted decisively" to confront the incursion and were "securing these systems and protecting users".

It is not yet clear what, if any, material was stolen during the hacks, how long the perpetrators went undetected, or whether it could open some political figures up for blackmail.

Cyber security agencies were reportedly investigating China being involved in the parliamentary computer Network breach.

Experts warn that attribution is time-consuming and hard.

"When you consider motivation, you would have to say that China is the leading suspect, while you wouldn't rule out Russian Federation either", said Fergus Hanson, head of the International Cyber Policy Centre at think-tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

He added, however, that there were only "one or two actors" capable of carrying out such an attack.

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Mr MacGibbon said while the hacker's identity remained unknown, the list of suspects was small.

It is now unknown who the culprit behind the cyber attack is, with Mr Morrison referring to them simply as a "sophisticated state actor".

Australia is expected to hold elections in mid-May, raising concerns that hackers could be trying to influence the outcome of the vote, or change the tenor of the debate. Moscow has denied the accusations.

We already knew that the Australian Parliament computer system was hacked several weeks ago, though at the time the ABC reported that the attack had been caught early, and that it was unclear whether any data had actually been taken.

"These institutions can be a soft target, and our national approach to cybersecurity needs to pay more attention to non-government organisations", Shorten said.

Along with Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, Australia is part of the Five Eyes intelligence network, which gives it access to a host of signals and human intelligence to back up any suspicions of state hacking.

The Prime Minister insists there has been no electoral interference, but has stepped up cyber security in response. Attackers could gain access to internal emails, polling results and campaign information. "We genuinely do not know".

Speaking on Monday morning, Morrison said the networks of the Liberals, Labor, and Nationals were affected, that the nation's security agencies are securing those systems, and that there is no evidence of electoral interference. For now, basically all the government is prepared to say is that "we have put in place a number of measures to ensure the integrity of our electoral system".

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