Tuesday 22 August 2017

MPs among 90 email accounts hacked in attack on Westminster

Up to 90 email accounts, including those of several MPs, have been compromised in a massive cyber-attack on the British parliament. Photo: PA
Up to 90 email accounts, including those of several MPs, have been compromised in a massive cyber-attack on the British parliament. Photo: PA

Rebecca Black

Up to 90 email accounts, including those of several MPs, have been compromised in a massive cyber-attack on the British parliament.

However, fewer than 1pc of the system's 9,000 users were directly affected by the "determined and sustained" attack.

The incident gave rise to blackmail fears after hackers tried to break in to the accounts of MPs, peers and their staff by searching for weak passwords.

Investigations are under way to see whether any data has been lost.

Independent Unionist MP for North Down Sylvia Hermon said her email account had not been affected and put her safety down to using complicated passwords.

"The head of the parliamentary digital service notified all MPs at lunchtime on Friday to say that they were investigating what was described as 'a cyber security incident'," she said.

"No other details were given apart from explaining that they were making some 'emergency changes to the IT network', which might cause some disruption. However, I've always used complicated passwords, which I regularly change.

"But, just to be sure, I phoned the parliamentary digital service and have been reassured that I am not one of the MPs whose emails have been hacked.

"Apparently, only a very small number of MPs have been affected and they have been informed."

Officials said both Houses of Parliament would meet today as planned after staff worked to ensure business could continue in the wake of the hacking.

A parliamentary spokesman said: "Parliament's first priority has been to protect the parliamentary network and systems from the sustained and determined cyber attack to ensure that the business of the Houses can continue.

"This has been achieved and both Houses will meet as planned.

"Investigations are ongoing, but it has become clear that significantly fewer than 1pc of the 9,000 accounts on the parliamentary network have been compromised as a result of the use of weak passwords that did not conform to guidance issued by the parliamentary digital service.

"As they are identified, the individuals whose accounts have been compromised have been contacted and investigations to determine whether any data has been lost are under way," the spokesman added.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and National Crime Agency are probing the incident, which came after reports that passwords for Cabinet ministers and MPs were being sold online by hackers.

Irish Independent

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