An investigation is under way over the parliamentary computer network security breach.
An investigation is under way over the parliamentary computer network security breach.

China probed in parliament hack attack

Australia's top cyber security agency is investigating an alarming breach of the federal parliamentary computing network, which has forced the resetting of passwords.

There is no evidence that any data has been accessed, but the investigation remains ongoing, Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Scott Ryan said in a joint statement this morning.

"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," the statement read.

It is understood the Australian Signals Directorate is assisting the investigation, alongside the Department of Parliamentary Services.

Security industry sources said it was possible China could be behind the latest attack.

Related story: Who is the mysterious Signals Directorate?

In March 2011, it was reported that China was suspected of accessing the email system used by federal MPs, their advisers and electorate staff, and parliamentary employees.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the breach - which he was confident was being handled properly - is a "wake up call".

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten said the breach should act as a ‘wake up call’. Picture: Dean Lewins
Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten said the breach should act as a ‘wake up call’. Picture: Dean Lewins

He pledged to help small businesses defend themselves from cyber attacks.

"Parliament at least has resources to protect if people try and hack into our systems," he told reporters in Sydney.

"We give a lot of our data to the big international and multinational technology companies and online platforms. It's very important that we do more to protect our data."

Chief executive of Canberra-based cyber security company archTIS, which specialises in secure communications services, said the government must act to shore up its cyber defences.

"If this morning's reports are true, Australia's democracy is under attack in an unspoken cyber war with foreign entities," said archTIS CEO Daniel Lai in a statement shared with news.com.au.

"This proves once again that old antiquated security models no longer have the capacity to protect our existing systems that we rely on to safeguard our national sovereignty and values."

Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.
Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.

The cyber breach comes amid revelations MPs in the UK were targeted by an attempt to hack into their email and phone contact lists earlier this week.

The UK government's deputy chief whip Christopher Pincher emailed MPs warning them to ignore text messages and emails which asked them to "provide overseas contact details" or to "download a secure message app", according to BuzzFeed News.

"This is a malicious hack that accesses your contacts list and sends texts and emails to all your private contacts," the email says.

At least one Tory MP reportedly fell for the scam, with dozens of MPs added to a WhatsApp group named "Hack warning 1".



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