Parliament’ s IT system was hacked last Friday, compromising the email accounts of almost 1% of the 9,000 users of the system according to the latest reports.
Remote Access Disabled
After the sustained cyber attack, which some media commentators have already blamed on a state-sponsored attack by Russia (North Korea and Iran have also been mentioned), remote access to the emails of MPs, peers, and their staff was disabled in order to safeguard the system. As well as the disruption caused to the UK government by the attack, one fear is that some of the information stolen by the attackers could lead to blackmail attempts.
It has been reported that the attackers were looking for accounts with weak passwords as these would give them the best chance of gaining quick access.
The parliamentary email system was shut down and MPs were also prevented from being able to access their email accounts remotely from outside of Westminster while the attack was investigated.
Also, it has been reported that any individuals whose accounts were compromised during the attack have been contacted and investigations are now under way to determine whether any data has been lost.
This new attack comes hot on the heels of the WannaCry attack in May in which ransomware infected the computers of an estimated 300,000 victims in 150 countries worldwide, many of them large, well-known businesses and organizations, including 16 health service organisations in the UK. That attack has since been attributed to a North Korea-based hacking group known as Lazarus, the same group that targeted Sony Pictures with a hack in 2014 over the release of the film ‘The Interview’ which satirised the North Korean leadership.
Echoes Of The US Election
The attack on the UK Parliament’s email system is also reminiscent of the cyber attacks against Democratic Party organisation during the 2016 election campaign where Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails were hacked and leaked, possibly influencing the presidential vote in Donald Trump’s favour. At the time, the finger of suspicion was pointed firmly at Russia as President Obama was reported to have warned Russian President Vladimir Putin about the possible consequences for the cyber attacks.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
This is another example of how even important and supposedly secure government systems can be vulnerable to cyber attack. Although we don’t know (and may never know) the full effects and the extent of this latest attack, it is a reminder that everyone, whether they are in Parliament or elsewhere, needs to do everything possible to maintain their own cyber-security.
In the wake of this latest attack and the WannaCry attack, Internet and data security, particularly with GDPR due to come into force next year, must surely now be given high priority by businesses and must be championed at board level. The danger and false economy of staying with old operating systems as long as possible, and the favouring of potentially weak password-based systems have been painfully exposed.
Businesses need to take a range of measures to ensure that they are well defended against known cyber threats, and prepared for the aftermath, should defences be breached. Preparations could include making sure that all the latest updates and patches are installed on systems and that anti-virus software is up to date, all important data is regularly and securely backed-up, all staff are trained to spot and deal correctly with potential threats, and workable Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans are in place.