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‘Sophisticated state actor’ hacks Australia’s political parties months before election

Australia’s three largest political parties have been hit by a cyberattack from a “sophisticated state actor,” the country’s prime minister Scott Morrison announced to Parliament this morning. As reported by The Guardian, hackers are believed to have accessed the networks of the Labor, Liberal, and Nationals parties, though it’s not clear if any data was taken.

The news comes just three months before Australian parliamentary elections are due to take place, and there are similarities with hacks that were conducted against political parties in the US in 2016 and France in 2017 prior to national elections in both countries. However, while a single party was targeted in both of these cases, as many as three Australian parties have been hit from across the political spectrum.

The hack, which was discovered by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) while it was investigating a previous attempted breach of Parliament, is not currently believed to involve electoral interference.

In his statement to Parliament, Morrison said that “[Australia’s] political system and our democracy remains strong, vibrant, and is protected.” He said that the government was determined to defend its democratic system and that the ACSC has been instructed to offer cybersecurity assistance to both political parties and electoral bodies.

The head of the ACSC, Alastair MacGibbon, said he was unable to confirm whether any data had been stolen as part of the hack. However, when contacted for comment by The Guardian, the leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, said that political parties were currently in the process of collecting “large amounts of information about voters and communities” ahead of the upcoming election.

Although Morrison declined to confirm who was behind the attacks, The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the attacks carry the digital fingerprints of Chinese agents. However, this doesn’t confirm that the country is responsible since another organization could have deliberately left such evidence behind as a diversion. The publication adds that just four states — China, Russia, Israel, and the United States — have the capability to perform such an attack.


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