Government funds new efforts to bolster political parties’ cyber security

New program launched in wake of parliament hack

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The Department of Finance will administer a new program to help political parties better improve the security of voter information that they hold.

Funding of $2.7 million was allocated in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2019-20, building on a 2017-18 budget measure that earmarked $300,000 to the four largest parliamentary parties to help boost security.

In early 2017 the government revealed plans to help political parties strengthen security in the wake of state-sponsored hackers penetrating a server belonging to the Democratic National Committee in the US.

The new funding “is in response to the significant and sophisticated cyber attacks on political parties earlier this year,” a Department of Finance spokesperson told Computerworld.

“The cyber campaign against the Australian parliament and our political parties demonstrates hostile actors' capacity and intent to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in the Australian government's internet-facing networks.”

Earlier this year the network of Parliament House was hacked, with the Australian government saying that the same “state actor” was also responsible for attacks on the networks of the Liberal, National and Labor parties.

The parliament hack was the first incident to be classified by the Australian Signals Directorate as a ‘C1’ on the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) ‘Cyber Incident Categorisation Matrix’. A C1 is a ‘national cyber crisis’.

“Following the Prime Minister's announcement of this incident in February 2019, the ACSC collaborated with state and territory counterparts to activate the Cyber Incident Management Arrangements, the national coordination framework between Australian, state and territory governments to rapidly share threat intelligence as well as techniques, tactics and procedures used by the actor,” the ASD’s annual report revealed.

“The ACSC released an advisory that explained the malicious activity, together with a custom-built software tool that enabled customers – such as Australian, state and territory government agencies and critical infrastructure providers – to scan their networks to identify any potential similar indicators of compromise.”

The Department of Finance spokesperson said the MYEFO funding will be used to “administer a program to support political parties to better protect voter information”.

“The program will support enhanced cyber monitoring and safeguard capabilities, as well as physical security measures designed to protect voter information held by political parties,” the spokesperson said.

Funding will be distributed in the form of grants. The grant guidelines are expected to be finalised early next year and published at www.grants.gov.au.

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