Australian authorities are investigating a breach of the country’s federal parliamentary computing network after a suspected hacking attempt, the Australian parliament revealed Friday.
“Following a security incident on the parliamentary computing network, a number of measures have been implemented to protect the network and its users,” parliamentary authorities said in a statement.
The statement, released by House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Scott Ryan, said there’s no evidence that data had been accessed in the breach, but investigations are continuing.
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“We have no evidence that this is an attempt to influence the outcome of parliamentary processes or to disrupt or influence electoral or political processes,” it said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had been briefed on the matter but could not comment on the source of the attack.
“I should stress that there is no suggestion that government departments or agencies have been the target of any such incursion,” Morrison told reporters.
Agencies investigating nationality of hacker
The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) confirmed it was working with the parliament in response to the attack, which suggests the breach may have involved serious hackers.
Australian public broadcaster ABC reported intelligence agencies were looking into whether China or another foreign government could be behind the attack.
“ASD and its Australian Cyber Security Centre will continue to work with [Parliament] to understand the full extent of this network compromise,” and ASD spokesperson told French news agency AFP.
Though Australian officials have not blamed any country, in 2011 it was reported China was suspected of accessing the email system used by lawmakers and parliamentary staff.
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“To undertake such an attack, you need some big resources, so a state actor is most likely,” James Der Derian, director of the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney, told Reuters news agency.
“You have to look and see who has a grievance against Australia, and the most obvious suspects would be China and Russia.”
Relations with China have deteriorated since 2017, after Canberra accused Beijing of interfering in its domestic affairs. Both countries have since attempted to mend ties, but Australia continues to be wary of China.
The Australian cyber breach follows revelations that parliamentarians in Britain were targeted by an attempt to hack into their email and phone contact lists earlier this week.
law/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)