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Canada helping Australia determine ‘full extent’ of hack

Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency said Wednesday it is working with Canberra to try to determine the scale of computer hacking on Australia’s parliament and political parties just months from an election.

In a statement to AFP, Communications Security Establishment (CSE) spokesman Ryan Foreman said the agency is “aware of a cyber security incident that targeted the Australian Parliament and several domestic political parties.

“We work closely with our Australian partners, including ongoing efforts to understand the full extent of this incident,” he added.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday said a “sophisticated state actor” was behind the cyber attack earlier this month.

China was named by security experts as a possible suspect, which Beijing said was “irresponsible” speculation and an attempt to “smear” the country.

Australians are expected to go to the polls mid-May, followed by Canadians in October.

Both countries are members of the Five Eyes intelligence network — along with Britain, New Zealand and the United States — and officials have warned that this makes them particularly rich targets for foreign interests.

The CSE has warned that hackers tried but failed to influence Canada’s 2015 election and may try again this year.

Last month, Canada created a special task force to fight disinformation and foreign meddling in the vote.

Canada’s paper ballot election system itself is considered safe.

But Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has warned of sophisticated attempts to sway elections in other countries in 2017 such as France where bots were used to slander President Emmanuel Macron, and Germany where seven of the 10 most-shared articles about Chancellor Angela Merkel on Facebook were false.

He outlined meddling that may include the “old fashioned” theft of sensitive information by foreign spies or providing illegal funds to campaigns, or coercing a diaspora.

And, he said, “social media have been used to falsely slander elected officials. Trolls and bots are dispatched to stoke anxiety, even hysteria around sensitive issues. Fake news masquerades as legitimate information.”

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