Chinese state-backed hackers attacked Australian parliament, claims report

Hack on Australian parliament Reuters

Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Australia's cyber intelligence agency found in March this year that China's Ministry of State Security was responsible for the cyberattack on its national parliament and three largest political parties before the general election in May this year.

Five unnamed people with direct knowledge of the findings revealed the classified report to Reuters, but it has not yet reviewed by the media agency.

On Monday, Reuters published the news stating that these individuals who shared the classified information, have denied being identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

It should be mentioned that the report included input from the Department of Foreign Affairs and recommended keeping the findings secret in order to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing, said two of the people.

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office declined to comment on the attack, China's Foreign Ministry denied involvement in any cybersecurity breach and said that the internet was full of theories that were hard to trace.

In a statement, the Chinese ministry stated that while investigating an online incident "there must be full proof of the facts, otherwise, it's just creating rumours and smearing others, pinning labels on people indiscriminately. We would like to stress that China is also a victim of internet attacks."

As we know, it is not easy for a government to accuse another country of cybercrime-related issues. In this case, since China is Australia's largest trading partner in several sectors, the Australian authorities felt that there was a "very real prospect of damaging the economy" if they accuse China, one of those people told Reuters.

In February 2019, Australia's parliament said they had to reset all the passwords on its computers, as they have noticed that an unknown attacker tried to hack the system. Later, PM Morrison said that the attack was "sophisticated" and probably carried out by a foreign government but he did not name any country.

ASD investigation also revealed that the hackers had also accessed the networks of the Liberal party, its coalition partner the rural-based Nationals and the opposition Labor party.

The launch of cyberattacks has raised concerns of election interference, as both the times, in US and Australia, political parties or organizations were targeted just a few months ago of the election date.

As per the Reuters, the source revealed that there was no indication that information gathered by the hackers was used in any way.

However, it should be noted that Chinese state-sponsored hacking group called APT10 is suspected to be the likely culprit behind several cyberattack campaigns. In a joint report published by Recorded Future and Rapid7 accused APT10, which has been active since at least 2009, for infiltrating one of the largest cloud service providers in Europe, Visma.

Even UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) mentioned that APT 10 has been targeting healthcare, defence, aerospace, government, heavy industry and mining industries.