February 18, 2019 12:40 am
Updated: February 18, 2019 12:41 am

Australia says a ‘state actor’ led cyberattack against political parties

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a Housing Industry roundtable at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 18 February 2019.


A “sophisticated state actor” was behind a cyberattack on the Australian Parliament’s computing network that also affected the network of major political parties, the prime minister said Monday.

READ MORE: More than 1 in 5 Canadian companies hit by cyberattack in 2017: StatCan

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not identify the state behind what he described as a “malicious intrusion” on Feb. 8.

A joint statement from House of Representatives speaker Tony Smith and Senate president Scott Ryan said at the time there was no evidence that data had been accessed in the breach. But lawmakers were advised to change passwords.

Morrison revealed on Monday that the computer networks of the government parties – the Liberal Party and the Nationals – as well as the opposition Labor Party had also been affected.

WATCH: ‘Naive’ to assume Canada not a target for election interference: Gould

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Australia’s security agencies were securing those systems and protecting users, he said.

“Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity,” Morrison told reporters.

“Let me be clear, though – there is no evidence of any electoral interference. We have put in place a number of measures to ensure the integrity of our electoral system,” he added.

The Australian Cyber Security Center, the government’s main cyber security agency, had briefed federal and state election authorities, Morrison said.

READ MORE: Cyberattack causes delays in major newspapers’ distribution

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, will hold elections on March 23. A federal election will be held on a date to be set in May.

Although Australian officials have not blamed any country, in 2011 it was reported that China was suspected of accessing the email system used by lawmakers and parliamentary staff.

Election interference has been high on the international agenda ever since America’s 2016 presidential election, in which Russian hackers stole and published more than 150,000 emails from various Democratic targets in what U.S. spymasters and senior lawmakers have described as a wide-ranging effort to help elect Donald Trump.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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