'Foreign spies' hack into Australian PM's computer
Chinese hackers seeking information on commercial secrets are suspected of having broken into a computer used by Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister.
Miss Gillard's parliamentary computer was among 10 machines used by senior government ministers which were compromised by the hackers, Australian intelligence officials have said.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported that American intelligence officials alerted their Australian counterparts to the security issue, warning that thousands of emails could have been stolen by the hackers.
"Four separate government sources confirmed that they had been told Chinese intelligence agencies were among a list of foreign hackers that are under suspicion," the paper said.
The breach took place in the Parliament House email network, which is primarily used as contact points for constituents, and not a more secure system ministers use for sensitive communications.
Computers belonging to Kevin Rudd, the foreign minister, and Stephen Smith, the defence minister, were also accessed by the hackers over a period lasting more than one month.
Security experts said they believed the hackers may have been looking for clues on Australian commercial secrets. "There are massive resources projects on the drawing board in Australia, they loom very large in the thinking of a number of other countries," said Neil Fergus, the chief execute of Intelligent Risk.
The government has remained tight-lipped on the reported breach, with Robert McClelland, the Attorney General, refusing to confirm or deny the incident.