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Politics

'State actor' hit Australian parliament in cyberattack, says PM

Security expert points to China and Russia as main suspects in hacking

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a government probe of the cyberattack against Australia's main political parties revealed "no evidence of any electoral interference."   © Reuters

SYDNEY -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that the cyberattack on the parliament's computer network earlier this month was probably carried out by a "sophisticated state actor."

The Australian Cyber Security Centre, an interagency body, recently identified a malicious intrusion into the Australian Parliament House computer network.

"Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity," Morrison told parliament, adding that unknown hackers have also breached the networks of country's main political parties.

Intelligence officials are investigating the attacks. While the Australian government has not released detailed information on the hacks, experts point to China or Russia as the main suspects.

The intrusion is said to have taken place in the early-morning hours of Feb. 8. No leaks of information stemming from the break in have been confirmed, according to a statement issued the same day by the parliament.

"During the course of this work, we also became aware that the networks of some political parties -- Liberal, Labor and the Nationals -- have also been affected," Morrison revealed. Australia is to hold a federal election by the end of May, but "there is no evidence of any electoral interference," he added.

The intrusion into the Australian parliament's computer network is thought to have taken place in the early-morning hours of Feb. 8.   © Reuters

"The intent of this attack is likely to collect valuable intelligence ahead of Australia's upcoming 2019 national election," said Danielle Cave, deputy head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre. "Sophisticated state actors would include the governments of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea," Cave said.

Cave pointed out that Australia has been targeted by Chinese hackers in recent years. "Despite the fact that the governments of Australia and China signed an agreement in 2017 not to conduct cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets or confidential information, over the last few years the Australian government, Australian businesses, universities and think tanks have all been targeted by Chinese-based hackers.

"And there is growing concern in Australia about the broad scope of the Chinese government's malicious cyber behavior," she said.

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