Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed the IT networks of the country’s major political parties have been compromised by a “sophisticated state actor.”
Morrison made the revelation in a statement about hackers gaining access to the Federal Parliament’s computer network two weeks ago.
Morrison today said that while investigating that breach, authorities became aware of the additional breach of the Liberal party, Labor and Nationals’ networks, which were also affected by the “malicious intrusion”.
“Our security agencies have detected this activity and acted decisively to confront it. They are securing these systems and protecting users,” Morrison told Parliament.
“Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity.”
The prime minister downplayed suggestions of electoral interference, saying there was no evidence of such and that the government had put in place a number of measures to ensure “the integrity of our electoral system.”
“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,” he said.
“They have already briefed the Electoral Commissions and those responsible for cyber security for all states and territories. They have also worked with global anti-virus companies to ensure Australia’s friends and allies have the capacity to detect this malicious activity.
“We have acted decisively to protect our national interests.
“The methods used by malicious actors are constantly evolving and this incident reinforces yet again the importance of cyber security as a fundamental part of everyone’s business.
“The Australian Government will continue to take a proactive and coordinated approach to protecting Australia’s sovereignty, our economy and our national security.”
He added: “Our political system and our democracy remains strong, vibrant and is protected.
“We stand united in the protection of our values and our sovereignty.
“The Government has chosen to be transparent about these matters. This in itself is an expression of faith by our Government in our democratic system and our determination to defend it.”
The cyber attack comes just months out from a federal election, expected in mid-May.
Concerns of political interference has been at the front of authorities minds after Russia was found to behind the hacking and release of internal emails within the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair during the 2016 US election.
The latest breach also intensifies speculation that China is somehow involved, having been responsible for previous hacks on Australian government systems, including a similar breach of the Federal Parliament’s computer network in 2011.