Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/29/oz_govt_email_hack/

Mystery hack pwns Australian government

Email cache apparently flashed

By John Leyden

Posted in Security, 29th March 2011 15:35 GMT

Parliamentary computers of the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, and other ministers may have been hacked, according to Australian media reports.

Details of the reported hack are more than a little vague. Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported that US intelligence tipped local authorities off over a suspected breach, which reportedly involved the exposure of several thousand emails from up to 10 ministers including Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

The compromise reportedly dates from February, the paper reports, adding that Australian spy agencies have been called in to tighten up network security.

The breach affected parliamentary systems rather the government's more secure intranet. Speculation suggests that hackers possibly from China (the usual suspects in all such cases) may have been after raw intelligence on Australia's lucrative mining industry.

Parliamentary emails are far more likely to deal with pending legislation, internal party political and constituency business, so this scenario doesn't seem particularly likely. If you were after intelligence on mining operations it would make more sense to hack into the systems of mining firms than those of politicians.

Assuming that the parliamentary systems has been compromised, for whatever reason, then targeted spear phishing and malware are the most likely scenarios. It's likely the US authorities came across the leak after spotting the email cache circulating on the Tor anonymizer network.

Australian authorities declined to confirm or deny the reports, according to the BBC. ®