GCSB reports increase in cyber attacks from foreign governments
, RNZ Political Editor
New Zealand's electronic spy agency has reported a 10 percent increase in cyber attacks from foreign governments, but
won't name those responsible.
Andrew Hampton Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson
Government Communications Security Bureau Director-General Andrew Hampton appeared before Parliament's Intelligence and
Security Committee this morning.
The committee is chaired by the prime minister; other members include the National Party leader Simon Bridges and other
Mr Hampton said in the last 18 months New Zealand had worked with other "like-minded" countries to "attribute a number
of cyber campaigns with clear links to state-sponsored actors".
"These cyber security incidents were designed to either generate revenue, disrupt businesses, undermine democracy or for
the theft of intellectual property," he told the committee.
The GCSB has attributed large scale cyber attacks
to both China and Russia alongside other Five Eyes partners.
Mr Hampton was asked by reporters afterwards whether China was responsible for any of the attacks cited by him at the
"In terms of cyber security New Zealand is subject to attacks from a range of state actors, we go through a very careful
and deliberate process when we attributed - we won't be doing any random attributions today."
The GCSB recorded 347 cyber security incidents in the last financial year.
It said 134 of those "contained indicators that have been linked to known state-sponsored cyber actors", up nearly 10
percent on the year before.
Huawei and the GSCB
There is ongoing debate about the GCSB's decision to initially reject Spark's 5G proposal
to partner with Chinese company Huawei because of security concerns, in the broader context of New Zealand's
relationships with China and its Five Eyes partners.
Mr Hampton told MPs his was a regulatory function, but he made direct reference to diplomatic and political pressure.
"I would like to assure the Committee that in making my decision at no point was I under direct or indirect pressure
from any party," Mr Hampton said.
"My decision was independent from ministers and while we share intelligence with Five Eyes partners, there was no
pressure, requests or demands made by partners, either publicly or privately, to ban any vendor."
For the first time, the GSCB also alluded to its role assisting Customs, under the Intelligence and Security Act.
"Through our signals intelligence capabilities we are supporting NZ Customs to better target transnational crime
networks with the aim of disrupting their efforts 'upstream' - before their activities can impact on New Zealand," Mr
Foreign interference in democratic processes
Security Intelligence Service Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge talked about New Zealand as, like other countries,
being the target of "foreign interference and espionage", which she said was a high priority for the agency.
Foreign intelligence agencies had the "intent and capability" and she listed the motives: trying to get hold of New
Zealand information, intellectual property and technology, covertly gaining influence over decision-makers and
pressuring individuals and communities to "subscribe to particular views or actions".
Within the context of concerns around foreign interference in the 2016 US Presidential election and the Brexit vote, Ms
Kitteridge said work had been done ahead of the 2017 election in New Zealand.
SIS Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge says
New Zealand was just like other countries
in being a target for foreign interference.
Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson "To work out the kind of steps if we saw that kind of activity in New Zealand and I'm thankful to say we didn't but I
don't think we should be complacent."
She said New Zealand had to be very alert to the fact that because of its "precious, open, liberal democracy", this
country does have "vulnerabilities" to foreign interference.
Ms Kitteridge said the SIS was aware of a "small but concerning" number of New Zealand citizens, some of whom have dual
citizenship, who are likely to still be in the conflict zone in Syria.
She said the agency was not aware of any of those people having returned to New Zealand, but wouldn't comment on whether
it was aware of any still intending to come home.
New Zealanders warned about internet use
"Don't be a Dave" - that's the GCSBs message to New Zealanders using the internet in government, business and at home.
Mr Hampton made the point that even the most sophisticated cyber security networks cannot protect against human error,
quoting former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
He went to tell MPs even in the most highly-classified environments, there are still risks.
"Our finance team got an email from me asking to transfer a whole lot of money..."
Ms Kitteridge interjected to clarify the situation: "they didn't click on it though, did they?"
Mr Hampton carried on saying you don't want to be a "Dave" - someone who clicks on everything that comes up on their