Australia's government and institutions are being targeted by ongoing sophisticated state-based cyber hacks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.Speaking on Friday, Morrison said officials had identified it as a state hack "because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the trade craft used".


Morrison said the cyber attacks were widespread, covering "all levels of government" as well as essential services and businesses.


Morrison said a 'sophisticated state-based actor' was behind ongoing attacks which have been happening for 'many months' but have increased recently.He declined to identify a specific state actor and said no major personal data breaches had been made.


He did not name any suspects but senior sources have told the ABC that government agencies believe China is behind them. China is the prime suspect of a huge cyber attack targeting Australian universities, hospitals, industry and governments. Critics say the attacks are part of a campaign by Beijing to bully and intimidate Australia following Canberra's calls for an inquiry into coronavirus.


Morrison did not name specific cases but said it had spanned "government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure".


The prime minister said his announcement on Friday was intended to raise public awareness and to urge businesses to improve their defences.


We raised this issue today not to raise concerns in the public's mind, but to raise awareness in the public's mind," Morrison said.


Previously, defence manufacturers, government contractors and accounting firms have been among those to report data breaches.

China has slapped tariffs on Australian barley and told students and tourists not to travel to Australia in apparent revenge. 

But he stressed that "malicious" activity was also being seen globally, making it not unique to Australia.He said businesses – particularly health infrastructure and service providers – should improve their technical defences.


Cyber defence agencies had thwarted "many" hacking attempts but protection required "constant persistence and application", he added.


"We know what is going on. We are on it, but it is a day-to-day task," he said