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Australian Government Responds to Cyber Attack on UK Electoral Systems

The Australian Government has called out malicious cyber attacks by Chinese state-affiliated actors against the United Kingdom’s electoral processes and democratic institutions, saying the targeting is “unacceptable and must stop”.

In a joint statement released by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, the Government expressed ‘serious concerns’ over the targeting and called on countries to act responsibility in cyberspace.

The Government went on to affirm that Australian electoral systems were not compromised by the campaigns that targeted the UK, and that Australia remained resilient against threats to the electoral roll.

“The Australian Electoral Commission has strong measures in place to ensure Australia’s electoral roll is secure. This includes working closely with members of the Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce, to ensure Australia’s systems are protected from the threat of foreign interference,” the announcement read.

“The Government continues to invest in protecting our public institutions and strengthening our national cyber security defences, including through the implementation of the 2023-2030 Australian Cyber Security Strategy.”   

UK Reveals Attack on Democratic Institutions

The announcement comes on the back of the UK government reporting on this week that Chinese affiliated actors had conducted two malicious cyber campaigns against institution and parliamentarians, particularly those who were critical of China.

“First, the UK can reveal today that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ – assesses that the UK Electoral Commission systems were highly likely compromised by a Chinese state-affiliated entity between 2021 and 2022,” an announcement from gov.uk read.

“Second, NCSC assesses it is almost certain that the China state-affiliated Advanced Persistent Threat Group 31 (APT31) conducted reconnaissance activity against UK parliamentarians during a separate campaign in 2021. 

“The majority of those targeted were prominent in calling out the malign activity of China. No parliamentary accounts were successfully compromised.

“This is the latest in a clear pattern of malicious cyber activity by Chinese state-affiliated organisations and individuals targeting democratic institutions and parliamentarians in the UK and beyond.”

The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office responded by summoning the Chinese Ambassador and handed down sanctions to one company and two individuals.