Parliamentary servers exposed in ‘unprecedented’ cyber breach

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed Australia’s parliamentary email system was last month hacked by a “sophisticated state actor”.

The breach of parliament's email servers, carried out by what the Government has claimed to be an unidentified foreign state actor – though widely believed to have originated in China – was logged by cybersecurity officials earlier this month.

Cybersecurity experts described the attack as “unprecedented” in its sophistication; however, there is no evidence that any data was lost or accessed in the raid, nor of any electoral interference.

Australia’s three biggest political parties were also believed to have been in the hackers’ firing line.

“Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity,” Morrison said during a parliamentary address on Monday.

“We also became aware that the networks of some political parties, Liberal, Labor and Nationals have also been affected,” he said.

Morrison said he has instructed the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) to offer “immediate support” to any political party or electoral body in Australia, including “making technical experts available” to agencies at their request.

“[The ACSC] have already briefed the electoral commissions and those responsible for cybersecurity 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 parliament hack comes in the wake of the Federal Government’s recent decision to ban Chinese telco developers Huawei and ZTE from tenders for the 5G and National Broadband Network (NBN) infrastructure rollouts. However, the bans were not prescriptive, with a number of state-based tenders from Huawei, including a $136 million radio and telecommunications contract with the Western Australian government, receiving Commonwealth approval.