'Be vigilant': Govt grills SIS, GCSB over election interference concerns

New Zealand is increasingly under attack by foreign governments - and our top spies have told MPs state-sponsored cyber attacks are on the rise.

They've even warned that our election process is vulnerable and may be under threat from foreign interference.

The SIS and GCSB were on Wednesday grilled by our most powerful MPs. On the agenda was whether to click on dodgy-looking emails.

"Are you telling me those Westpac emails aren't actually from Westpac... given I don't bank at Westpac?" asked Simon Bridges.

Cyber warfare and espionage were also on the table, and apparently on the rise.

Our foreign spy agency, the GCSB, says of the 347 cyber security incidents recorded in the year to June, 134 were linked to foreign governments -10 percent more than the year before.

Director General of the GCSB, Andrew Hampton, said the incidents were "designed to generate revenue, disrupt businesses, undermine democracy and theft of intellectual property."

Undermining our democracy, the spies warned our next election could be targeted in a similar way to the last US Presidential election, when Hillary Clinton's campaign emails were hacked and the CIA blamed Russia for trying to help Donald Trump.

SIS Director General Rebecca Kitteridge said the Government needs to be aware that the threat of interference exists.

"Because we have this precious open liberal democracy, it does have vulnerabilities to foreign interference - and we all need to be alert to that."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed, saying the Government needs to "be vigilant."

"We are in a changing international environment and we cannot assume NZ would be immune from that."

Our spies have accused the Chinese government of cyber attacks on New Zealand before, but with current strains on the NZ-China relationship, there was no blaming China today.

It was the GSCB which blocked Chinese tech giant Huawei from installing 5G technology in New Zealand out of national security fears.

If cyber attacks on New Zealand by foreign governments are in the up, you can be certain China takes a share of the blame.

But with the Prime Minister still waiting for a date for her stalled trip to Beijing, the Government's playing nice.