May 29, 2019 / 8:07 PM / 2 months ago

New Zealand budget leaks not deemed illegal - Treasury

WELLINGTON, May 30 (Reuters) - New Zealand police believe early accessing of sensitive budget information from the Treasury’s website were not illegal, the department said on Thursday, in the midst of a national furore over hacking accusations.

The Treasury said on Wednesday that it was attacked 2,000 times in two days by hackers after the opposition National Party published some details of the much-anticipated economic plan before its full release due later on Thursday.

The saga has dominated headlines, sparked jabs between political parties, and threatened to overshadow the much-vaunted “Wellbeing” budget promised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government. It aims to move away from traditional economic indicators to use other measures of living standards from loneliness to water quality.

The Treasury statement on Thursday said that police were dropping the investigation into what happened to the website.

“Police have advised the Treasury that, on the available information, an unknown person or persons appear to have exploited a feature in the website search tool but that this does not appear to be unlawful,” it said.

National Party leader Simon Bridges, who has denied his party was involved in illegal activity, was due to address journalists on Thursday morning.

Police did not immediately comment.

In the statement, Treasury head Gabriel Makhlouf said the agency had created a “clone” website with budget information not publicly accessible, though a special word search could access some content.

He said several internet IP addresses, including one parliamentary one, were involved, but did not give names of those responsible.

The Treasury said it was reviewing its systems and would increase the security of budget information, while a government supervisory body - the State Services Commissioner - would carry out an inquiry into what happened.

The budget is to be released at 1400 local time (0200 GMT). (Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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