Australia’s cyber intelligence agency has found that China was behind a cyberattack on the country’s parliament and three largest political parties prior to the general election this year, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: In February, Australia revealed that hackers had broken into the network of its national parliament, saying it believed the breach was the work of a foreign government.

  • The Australian government has taken measure to limit Chinese influence in the country, outlawing overseas political donations and effectively banning telecommunications giant Huawei from its 5G rollout.

Details: Intelligence agency the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) concluded in March that China’s Ministry of State Security was behind the attack, sources told Reuters.

  • The ASD’s report recommended that the results of the investigation remain unpublished to avoid souring trade relations with China.
  • Australian officials believed that publicly accusing China of the attack could damage Australia’s economy.
  • The Australian government has still not disclosed who it believes to be behind the attack.
  • The hackers also attacked the networks of the ruling Liberal party, its coalition partner Nationals, and the Labor party.
  • The hackers gained access to policy papers on topics including foreign policy and tax, as well as emails sent between lawmakers.
  • The attacker used code known to have been previously employed by China, the sources said.

Chinese state-backed hackers are turning to cybercrime for profit

Context: The attack earlier this year had lawmakers worried, and members of parliament were urged to take precautionary measures including changing their passwords.

  • China’s state-sponsored hackers are not only using their skills for espionage but are also moonlighting for profit, according to cybersecurity research firm FireEye.
  • These groups have also targeted overseas medical research and data, as lucrative opportunities for homegrown oncology companies grow.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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