​Hackers target Queensland premier's department

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's department has become the site of a state and federal investigation after the email address of her director-general was used to distribute a virus.

State and federal authorities are investigating a cyber attack on the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet after it emerged an employee had his account hijacked.

The email account of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's director-general, David Stewart, has been hacked and used to circulate bogus emails in his name that contained a malicious virus.

A government spokesman confirmed with AAP on Friday morning that malicious emails had been circulating and Queensland's chief information officer Andrew Mills had in fact called in the police.

"The Queensland government is also working with the Australian Cyber Security Centre," the spokesman said. "Protective measures have been further strengthened within the Queensland Government to ensure the highest security protocols exist."

The spokesman would not say which parts of the government's IT system had been compromised and Palaszczuk told The Courier-Mail it was uncertain whether the virus caused any damage, or whether files were compromised.

The local publication also revealed the state's Department of Tourism experienced a breach, with both attacks believed to have begun last Wednesday.

The personal records of thousands of students were exposed in November, due to a cyber attack that hit TAFE Queensland's database, impacting the Department of Education and Training website as well.

The state government played down the event, with Mills calling it at the time a "low level" security breach.

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath also insisted that the cyber attack did not uncover anything that would not be available in a phone book, noting that the breach did not uncover sensitive information such as financials or credit card details.

At the time, the Queensland Police Service had issued a statement via the Cyber Security Crime Group, warning Queenslanders of an increase in scams, in particular malware-based attacks, urging businesses and individuals to keep on their guard.

Attacks the police force had seen included malware and ransomware attacks, as well as phishing and other hacking methods to perform document theft. It also said that cyber attacks on business and government agencies had recently occurred but was unable to confirm with ZDNet what agencies due to privacy reasons.

In April, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull owned up to the attack on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) that became public in December, stating that the Department of Parliamentary Services suffered a similar attack in the past.

The BOM remained tight-lipped about the security breach when it was probed with questions during a Senate Committee hearing back in February.

"I can say a few things, the first is that there have been no security-related disruptions to our service delivery, to our ICT systems at all -- that's the first thing," BOM CEO Rob Vertessy said at the time.

"The second is that it is well known throughout the internet and the systems that we all run in government and business that there are a range of threat actors out there that require gradually improving security posture for those agencies to minimise the risks of the violations."

It was also reported in February that the phone, internet, and email systems at Western Australia's Parliament House went down as the result of a cyber breach, with staff at the state's Parliament House told via an internal memo that a Trojan virus had penetrated its IT network.

With AAP