New Zealand spies helped track down cyber-attackers on Australian Parliament

New Zealand spies helped track down who carried out a major cyber-attack on Australia's Parliament before its election earlier this year.

Australia's cyber intelligence agency concluded in March that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on its Parliament, Reuters reports, citing five sources within intelligence agencies.

Andrew Hampton, Director-General of the GCSB, on Tuesday revealed New Zealand sent spies to Australia to help investigate the hack.

"We have technical people with great skills who were there to provide support to their Australian partners," Hampton said on his way out of a briefing to the Labour Party caucus.

When asked about reports China was behind the hacking of Australia's political parties,  Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for New Zealand's spy agencies, said some countries are proving to be "routine internet warriors".

"China is one of them. North Korea is another. Russia is another. This is now a risk to the world that we all have to be across and be prepared for," he said.

New Zealand is so invested in preventing these kinds of cyber-attacks our spies were sent to help Australia with its investigation. 

There were 347 cyber-attacks on New Zealand from June 2017 to 2018, 39 percent were linked to state-sponsored actors.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament in February Australia's cyber experts "believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for [the] malicious activity," but officials have kept the suspected state actor secret.

Sources Reuters spoke to say Australia kept the findings secret because it could risk its valuable trade relationship with China.

New Zealand authorities have also weighed up relationships when deciding whether to name and shame. New Zealand trade with China was worth $28 billion in 2018.

Hampton told Newshub diplomatic implications "is one of a range of considerations", but is "not the only one".

Heading into next year's election, New Zealand's top spies have already warned our democracy is at risk of hacking.

MPs heard submissions in April from Hampton and the director-general of NZSIS Rebecca Kitteridge. They said foreign interference in the 2017 general election by a state actor "was, and remains, plausible". 

But we may never know by who when trade worth billions of dollars is on the line.