Australia’s security agencies have launched an investigation into a digital attack attempt against the country’s Federal Parliament.
Sources told the Australian Broadcasting Company that security personnel caught digital attackers in the early stages of breaking into the Federal Parliament’s computer network. It’s unclear whether bad actors stole any information. As a precaution, authorities reset lawmakers’ computer passwords.
This attack attempt comes three months before Australia’s federal election. As noted by the Sydney Morning Herald, this timing has prompted fears that those responsible for the attempted intrusion could interfere in the election if they made off with MPs’ emails or data.
Tony Smith, the speaker of the lower House of Representatives, and Scott Ryan, president of the upper house Senate, said in a joint statement that it’s prudent to wait until the country’s security agencies conclude their investigation. As quoted by Reuters:
We have no evidence that this is an attempt to influence the outcome of parliamentary processes or to disrupt or influence electoral or political processes. Accurate attribution of a cyber incident takes time and investigations are being undertaken in conjunction with the relevant security agencies.
Alastair MacGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, said that authorities will be working for the foreseeable future to make sure they’ve removed the attackers from the computer network and taken steps to prevent these bad actors from regaining access.
MacGibbon clarified that it’s too early to say who might have perpetrated the attack, though Australia Broadcasting Corporation said that security agencies are looking for links to China.
This isn’t the first time that the Australian government has suspected China as the source of a digital attack. In 2015, officials at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said there was evidence to suggest that China had been behind a “massive” hack against a supercomputer owned by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that whoever was responsible for this new attempt didn’t target federal government department or agencies. He declined to offer any additional information but said the government will offer further details once security personnel have concluded their investigation.