China Denies Hacking Australian Political Parties

China Denies Hacking Australian Political Parties

The systems of the ruling Liberal and National coalition parties as well as the opposition Labor Party, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament on Monday.

"When you consider motivation, you would have to say that China is the leading suspect, while you wouldn't rule out Russian Federation either", said Fergus Hanson, head of the International Cyber Policy Centre at think-tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The Australian government will continue to take a proactive and coordinated approach to protecting Australia's sovereignty, our economy and our national security.

Analysts have said China, Russia and Iran were the most likely culprits.

Australians are expected to go to the polls mid-May, raising the specter that hackers could be trying to influence the outcome of the vote, or change the tenor of the debate.

I have instructed the Australian Cyber Security Centre to be ready to provide any political party or electoral body in Australia with immediate support, including making their technical experts available.

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It is unclear how sophisticated the hack was, but the extent of the intrusion suggests a level of expertise that is usually associated with larger adversaries, such as Moscow or Beijing.

Along with Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, Australia is part of the Five Eyes intelligence network, which gives it access to a host of signals and human intelligence to back up any suspicions of state hacking.

"Our political institutions represent high-value targets". USA officials have accused state-sponsored Russian hackers of infiltrating the Democratic National Committee's servers to steal emails to embarrass the Clinton campaign.

The breach was identified quickly, and efforts to negate it resulted in destruction of forensic evidence that may have helped identify the attackers, per Australian Cyber Security Centre head Alastair MacGibbon.

Security sources indicated last week China could be behind the attack, but the government's cybersecurity chief said the culprit was not yet clear. "We don't know. These are very early days", he said.

Scott Morrison declined to reveal any details about what data, if any, the hackers accessed, but the fact that they managed to breach both Parliament and the major political parties' systems means they potentially had access to a huge amount of information with the potential to sway the upcoming federal election. He also confirmed that measures had been put in place to defend any infiltration and has briefed the cybersecurity agencies in order to "ensure the integrity of our electoral system".

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