Australia parliament hit by cyber-hack attempt

10 February, 2019, 08:50 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Tourists walk around the forecourt of Australia's Parliament House in Canberra on Oct 16 2017

Federal MPs' emails and data may have been compromised by a cyber attack on Parliament that is being described as "sophisticated", suggesting the involvement of a foreign government.

Australian authorities are investigating an attempt to hack into the national parliament's computer network, two senior lawmakers said on Friday, but there was no evidence yet that any data had been accessed or stolen.

It is believed that information was not accessed and that the passwords of politicians were reset as a precaution. "There might be interesting information about parliamentary perks that are given to politicians that the public may not like".

In December a year ago, in conjunction with the indictments of two men alleged to be Chinese government hackers by the US Justice Department and similar claims from United Kingdom officials, Alastair MacGibbon, the head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, warned tens of thousands of Australian companies may have been compromised in the so-called Cloudhopper campaign against global IT service providers like HPE and IBM.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had been briefed on the matter but could not comment on the source of the attack.

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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. Notably, Australia has banned China's Huawei and ZTE, and fell out with Moscow over the investigation into Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down by a Russian anti-aircraft missile in July 2014.

Indeed, hack attacks that target legislators and their staff are common.

In March 2011, it was reported China was suspected of accessing the email system used by federal MPs, advisers, electorate staff and parliamentary employees.

The cyber breach comes amid revelations MPs in the United Kingdom were targeted by an attack to hack into their email and phone contact lists earlier this week.

Smith and Ryan also said they had no evidence that the incident represents an attempt to sway the upcoming election, due in three months time, or to disrupt the electoral or political process. An investigation by Parliament blamed users' poor password choices for the breaches (see: Parliament's Email Practices Probed by Privacy Watchdog).

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