Parliament House ‘particular interest’ to cyber hackers

Parliament House is of “particular interest” to malicious hackers, with constant attempts being made to breach network security, an inquiry has heard.

Department of Parliamentary Services chief information officer James Lawson on Monday declined to disclose at the “open forum” of a Senate estimates hearing how many attacks had been made on the electronic devices given to parliamentarians or on the parliament.

Mr Lawson said there were a range of cybersecurity controls in place to manage and protect data on devices, but warned about an “ever-evolving cyber threat landscape”.

“Parliament House is of particular interest to malicious cyber actors,” he said.

“There’s constant attempts … to breach our networks and to make targeted attacks against us.”

Liberal senator James McGrath had asked the official how many hacking attempts had been made in recent months.

Mr Lawson took the question on notice.

Meanwhile, the head of Australia’s top intelligence agency told a separate hearing foreign interference had supplanted terrorism as the “principal security concern”.

“Australia is the target of sophisticated and persistent espionage and foreign interference activities from a range of hostile foreign intelligence services,” Australian Security Intelligence Organisation boss Mike Burgess said.

“These activities are an attack on our way of life.”

In 2021, the Department of Parliamentary Services was the subject of what was described as “malicious cyber activity” using “unsophisticated brute force tradecraft”.

The hackers were seeking to access department-issued mobile devices.

A “sophisticated state actor” was detected in February 2019 conducting malicious activity within the networks of federal parliament and major Australian political parties.


Tess Ikonomou
(Australian Associated Press)


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