Three major Australian political parties hacked by ‘sophisticated state actor’ ahead of election

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Yesterday, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, revealed that “a sophisticated state actor”  was behind a cyber attack on the Australian Parliament’s computing network that also affected the network of major political parties. First reported by The Guardian, the attack affected the computer networks of the Liberal Party and the Nationals – as well as the opposition Labor Party, only three months before the Parliamentary election in May.

Morrison told reporters that “Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity”. In a statement to parliament on Monday, he said there was no evidence of electoral interference and measures  were taken to “ensure the integrity of our electoral system”.

This intrusion into the networks of political parties was detected by agencies investigating the attack on the Parliament House network. He said security agencies had “acted decisively” to confront the incursion and were “securing these systems and protecting users”.

Australian Cyber Security Centre head Alastair MacGibbon stated that the agency was currently unable to answer whether or not data had been stolen because all the agencies involved were “acting extraordinarily quickly and very openly, so we are piecing together all of the events.”

There is no evidence as to which country was behind the intrusion as well as no comment on how deeply the attack had penetrated the computer networks.

The news comes just months after the Assistance and Access Bill was passed that allows the police to tell apps like WhatsApp and Signal to build in so-called “backdoors”, to give investigators access to the contents of messages, to assist in any investigation of cyber offense. However, security experts were unanimously against backdoors since once such a mechanism has been implanted in the app, it can create a target for other countries’ spy agencies and corporate spies to see what people are discussing.

Users on Twitter and HackerNews have expressed strong sentiments on this news, one user is blaming the government’s choices like weakening the encryption in apps through their new law, that has lead to this attack. Other users are speculating Russia’s hand in this attack. The Sydney Morning Herald stated that just four states — China, Russia, Israel, and the United States — have the capability to perform such an attack.

Head over to BBC for more insights on this news.

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