SYDNEY (Reuters) – A cyber attack on Australian lawmakers who violated the network of major political parties was probably carried out by a foreign government, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday, but not a suspect.
As Australia heads for a May election, legislators were told this month that they quickly changed their passwords after the cyber information agency discovered an attack on the national parliament's computer network.
The hackers violated the network of major political parties, Morrison said when he issued an initial assessment of investigators.
"Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity," he told the parliament.
"We also became aware that the networks of some political parties, liberals, workers and citizens have also been affected."
Morrison did not reveal what information was accessed, but he said there were no signs of disruption.
Investors still secure local networks, says Alastair MacGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Center, the Government Security Department of Online Security.
"Our political institutions represent high-quality goals," MacGibbon told reporters in the capital Canberra.
"We will continue to work with our friends and colleagues both here and abroad to find out who is behind and hopefully their intention."
Analysts have said that China, Russia and Iran were the most likely sinners.
"When you consider motivation, you should say that China is the leading suspect while you do not exclude Russia," said Fergus Hanson, head of the International Cyber Policy Center at the think tank of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
"It is the honey pot of juicy political gossip that has been hoovered. Emails showing everything from dirty clothes of internal struggles to who supported a policy could be shown."
Ties with China have deteriorated since 2017, after Canberra accused Beijing of interfering in their domestic affairs. Both countries have since tried to repair relationships, but Australia remains cautious with China.
The excitement rose this month after Australia lifted the visa from a prominent Chinese businessman just months after Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies had excluded the supply of equipment for its 5G broadband network.
Officers from Russia's GRU Military Intelligence Agency secretly monitor computers from the US Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and campaign committees, and stole large amounts of data that US scientists have concluded.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing Clarence Fernandez