February 18, 2019
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – A cyber attack this month on Australian lawmakers was probably carried out by an unidentified foreign country, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, adding that the networks of major political parties were breached ahead of an election due by May.
Lawmakers were this month told to urgently change their passwords after Australia’s cyber intelligence agency detected an attack on the national parliament’s computer network.
The hackers breached the networks of Australia’s major political parties, Morrison said, as he issued an initial assessment by investigators.
“Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity,” he told parliament.
“We also became aware that the networks of some political parties, Liberal, Labor and Nationals have also been affected.”
Morrison did not reveal what information was accessed, but he said there was no evidence of election interference.
Australians will return to the polls by May.
Morrison did not name any suspects, but government 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Tension rose this month after Australia rescinded the visa of a prominent Chinese businessman, just months after barring Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to its 5G broadband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.
Officers of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency covertly monitored computers of U.S. Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and campaign committees, and stole large amounts of data, U.S. investigators have concluded.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)