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Pacific News Minute: Australia’s Political Parties Targeted by “Sophisticated” Cyber Attack

mark broadhurst

Australia appears to be the latest target of politically motivated cyber attacks. Foreign governments have been identified in previous attacks on France, Britain, Germany and the United States; now Australia’s prime minister blamed a “sophisticated state actor” for attacks on the networks of the country’s major political parties.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not specify which state actor was behind the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on China. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the attacks carry the digital fingerprints of China, but cited unnamed “authorities” as saying that another state might have duplicated Beijing’s signature in order to divert blame.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuangdismissed the allegation as “baseless speculation” and charged the news media with undermining China’s relations with Australia.

The first sign of intrusion came several weeks ago on the computer network at Parliament House. On Monday, Prime Minister Morrison told parliament that in the course of investigating that hack, authorities realized that the networks of some political parties had also been affected, namely Labour, the Nationals and his own Liberal party. Nationwide elections in Australia are just a few weeks away, and while Morrison said that there was no evidence of election interference, analysts were quick to recall the Russian hack of Democratic Party emails that were leaked in the run up to the American Presidential election in 2016.

Australia’s Parliamentary communications have been hacked before. In 2011, intruders extracted thousands of confidential emails and documents. According to media reports, the culprit that time, was China.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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