Editor's note

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this week that a “sophisticated state actor” had targeted the big Australian political parties in a major cyber attack, the revelation threw up more questions than answers. To make sense of it all, we’re hearing today from Nigel Phair, an expert on the intersection of crime, technology and society. He said that while hacks like these should be seen as “the new normal” there was good reason to be concerned – political parties hold a lot of rich data that could be used to infiltrate other areas to perhaps change voter outcomes. And the mode of attack may have been as simple as a phishing attack aimed at getting a party member to reveal a login name and password.

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that a state did manage to obtain data in this recent hack, and decided to use it for malicious means during the 2019 federal election campaign. How might we be able to tell? Michael Jensen identifies four ways we could see such activity. At their core, these strategies would seek to inflame religious and ethnic differences, as well as embarrass the major parties in an effort to drive votes to minor parties.

And Australian journalist Peter Greste, who in 2014 was sentenced to seven years in an Egyptian prison for interviewing members of the Muslim Brotherhood (seen as “promoting terrorist ideology”), writes about the recent arrest of Filipino journalist Maria Ressa. He warns that Ressa’s case says something important about the way governments are increasingly using the “rule of law” to silence the legitimate work of journalists.

Sunanda Creagh

Head of Digital Storytelling

Top story

Shutterstock/AAP/The Conversartion

‘I think we should be very concerned’: A cyber crime expert on this week’s hack and what needs to happen next

Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation; Wes Mountain, The Conversation; Bageshri Savyasachi, The Conversation

This week, a 'sophisticated state actor' hacked the big Australian political parties. In today's episode, an expert on crime and technology says 'it's a given' that some will try to disrupt elections.

Your voting preference might be subtly influenced by social media exposure in the lead up to an election. Ellen Smith/AAP

We’ve been hacked – so will the data be weaponised to influence election 2019? Here’s what to look for

Michael Jensen, University of Canberra

If another country wants to weaponise data hacked through Australia's parliament, we'll likely see them try to inflame religious and ethnic differences, and drive votes to minor parties.

Maria Ressa was arrested in early February. ALECS ONGCAL/AAP

Press freedom under attack: why Filipino journalist Maria Ressa’s arrest should matter to all of us

Peter Greste, The University of Queensland

Maria Ressa's case is important because of what it says about the way governments are increasingly using the "rule of law" to silence the legitimate work of journalists.

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