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Australia's major parties hacked by 'sophisticated state actor'

By Darryl Coote
Australia's major parties hacked by 'sophisticated state actor'
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament that the country's major political parties were targeted in a cyber attack in early February. Photo by David Pool/EPA-EFE/POOL AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Sunday that the country's major political parties were hacked by a "sophisticated state actor."

Morrison told Parliament that the hack of the Liberal, Labor and National parties was discovered while investigating a "malicious intrusion into the Australian Parliament House computer network."

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In early February, the House's parliamentary computer network was attacked, but no data was breached, the Guardian reported.

Before Parliament Sunday, Morrison said the country's security agencies "acted decisively to confront it," but that he wouldn't go into further details at that time.

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"Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity," he said.

The attack comes months before the federal election in May, but Morrison said that there was no 
"evidence of electoral interference."

"We have put in place a number of measures to ensure the integrity of our election system," he said.

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He said he has also instructed the Australian Cyber Security Centre to provide any political party or electoral body in the country with immediate support and that the center is working in partnership with anti-virus companies to ensure Australia's allies are capable of detecting a similar attack.

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"We have acted decisively to protect our national interests," he said.

In 2011, the parliamentary computer network was breached reportedly by China, causing for the Department of Parliamentary Services to upgrade its cybersecurity, the Age reported.

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Labor leader Bill Shorten told Parliament in response to the prime minister that the attack is similar to those that have occurred overseas in that "it is progressive parties that are more likely to be targeted by ultra-right wing organizations," the Guardian reported.

He said that the political parties are smaller organizations that amass huge amounts of data making them potentially vulnerable targets.

"Our agencies shouldn't just be providing advice to political parties, but actively assisting in their defense," he said.

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