Alleged hacking of Australian parliament feeds anti-China frenzy
20 February 2019
Unsubstantiated claims that a “sophisticated state actor” hacked into the Australian parliament’s computer network this month make clear that the upcoming national elections due in May will take place in a political climate poisoned by xenophobia, directed above all against China.
In a statement on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison relayed allegations by the intelligence agencies that the Parliament House computers and all three major parties—the ruling Liberal and National parties, and opposition Labor Party—had been targeted. “Our cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity,” he said.
Alistair McGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, provided few details of the alleged breach. He said it was too early to tell what information had been accessed but declared that it had been the right decision “in terms of risk management, to go publicly with this issue before we knew the full extent.”
Neither Morrison nor McGibbon explained why their statements would assist in “risk management” given that so little is known about the hacking. Moreover, parliament and all parliamentarians, as well as presumably the entire intelligence-defence-police apparatus and other state agencies, would have been informed of the breach when it was identified on February 8.
The decision to go public was made not on security grounds but as part of the intensifying campaign to brand China’s alleged interference in Australian politics as a national security threat in the lead up to the election. McGibbon declared that the sophistication of the hacking was such that only a “state actor” from “a limited…