Australian security organisations are currently responding to a foreign government attack that unfolded today on the Australian parliament’s computing system.
While it has not been confirmed, agencies are investigating whether China is behind the incident.
It has yet to be confirmed whether any data had been successfully stolen. In the meantime, passwords have been reset and the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) is now working to secure the network.
While the hack was swiftly detected, this has been described as a sophisticated attack.
Cyber security expert and adjunct professor Nigel Phair from the University of Canberra said, ‘If I was a nation state, or dare I say any hacker looking for state secrets, this is the crown jewels.’
Attack not related to the election
Although some have started to speculate, parliament’s presiding officers have assured in a media statement that there is no evidence relating the attack to the upcoming election process.
Similarly, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that no federal government departments or agencies were targeted in the attack. However, he has refused to comment further until he receives more details from investigators.
But while the motive is still unclear, the attack may not be random.
The breach has come following warnings from MPs in the UK, after an unknown source attempted to hack into their emails and phone contact lists earlier this week.
They were told to ignore text messages and emails which asked them to provide their overseas contact details or allow access to a ‘secure message app’, Buzzfeed News reports.
According to James Der Derian, the director of the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney, a state actor is most likely behind the attack, due to the large amount of resources it would have taken to pull off. And the ones which would have the greatest friction with Australia are currently China and Russia.
China or Russia?
It’s no secret that relations with China have deteriorated since 2017, when Canberra accused China of meddling in their affairs. Not only that, it was reported this week that Australia had rescinded the visa of a Chinese businessman, just a few months after barring the Chinese telecoms giant, Huawei Technologies.
Russia’s ties are just as frayed, after the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight back in 2014, which was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile.
As the day unfolds, here’s hoping we find some more answers.