Australia blames state actor for hacking political parties

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A “sophisticated state actor” was behind a cyberattack on the Australian Parliament’s computing network that also affected the network of major political parties, the Prime Minister said yesterday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not identify the state behind what he described as a “malicious intrusion” on February 8.

A joint statement from House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Scott Ryan said at the time there was no evidence that data had been accessed in the breach.

But lawmakers were advised to change passwords.

Morrison revealed yesterday that the computer networks of the government parties — the Liberal Party and the Nationals — as well as the opposition Labour Party had also been affected.

Australia’s security agencies were securing those systems and protecting users, he said.

“Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity,” Morrison told reporters.

“Let me be clear, though — there is no evidence of any electoral interference. We have put in place a number of measures to ensure the integrity of our electoral system,” he added.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre, the government’s main cyber security agency, had briefed federal and state election authorities, Morrison said.

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, will hold elections on March 23. A federal election will be held on a date to be set in May.

Duncan Lewis, director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the nation’s main spy agency, would not comment on how deeply the attack had penetrated the computer networks.