China denies cyber attack


China has denied it is behind a massive and "malicious" cyber attack on Australia's essential services, government agencies, industry and infrastructure.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Foreign Ministery spokesman Geng Shuang flipped the accusation on its head, casting China as "the biggest victim" of such attacks.

"China is a staunch upholder of cyberspace security and we have been the biggest victim of cyber attacks," he said.

"We have been firmly opposing and combating all forms of cyber attacks. Our position is clear and consistent."

He said the idea that China was behind the attack on Australia was "wholly baseless and nonsense."

Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that a state-based actor, which understands to be China, had launched a significant increase in cyber activity. He made his public statement after briefing the state premiers last night.

The new cyber attack follows reports that Australia's cyber intelligence agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, had concluded last year that China's Ministry of State security was responsible for a major attack on Parliament and political parties in the lead up to the 2019 election.

Government sources say China is behind the attack and Mr Morrison refused to shut down speculation that the nation was the "sophisticated state-based actor" behind the attack. Refusing to name the foreign entity, the Prime Minister stressed investigations were continuing by the Defence Signals Directorate and law enforcement agencies.

The attack follows rising diplomatic tensions with China, Australia's biggest trading partner, over new tariffs on barley and warnings to tourists and overseas students to no longer travel here.