Canberra kept quiet knowledge that China hacked Australian Parliament, political parties

Australia govt. kept information from public out of concern for trade relations, political tension with Beijing

File photo: Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Nov. 8, 2018

File photo: Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Nov. 8, 2018 (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – China was reportedly responsible for a series of cyber-attacks on the Australian government earlier this year, according to a Reuters report published on Monday (Sept. 16).

According to Reuters' five insider sources, Beijing was determined to be responsible for sophisticated hacks that targeted the computer systems of Australia’s parliament and private servers belonging to the country's three largest political parties. One of Australia’s intelligence agencies, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), concluded in March that China was responsible for the attack on the Parliament, but the report remains classified.

The hacks targeting the Australian Parliament allegedly took place in February 2019 and were quickly determined by the ASD to be the work of a foreign government, but no mention of China was ever made public. It was discovered shortly thereafter that the computer networks of the Liberal Party, National Party, and opposition Labour Party had also been compromised.

In the wake of the attack, the United Kingdom reportedly dispatched a team to assist in investigating the incident. According to two of the sources quoted by Reuters, private correspondence and policy reports were likely compromised.

“The attack on the political parties gave the perpetrators access to policy papers on topics such as tax and foreign policy, and private email correspondence between lawmakers, their staff and other citizens.”

The sources suggest that accusations against Beijing were kept private to avoid disrupting trade relations with China or making the attacks a larger issue ahead of the national elections, which took place in May. China’s Foreign Ministry has denied involvement in any such hacking operations, reports Reuters.