UK Lawmakers Warned of “Persistent” Hacking Threat

The UK parliament has invoked the spirit of Guy Fawkes in a bid to improve cybersecurity awareness among lawmakers.

A reported newsletter update sent to members of the House of Lords warned that the infamous Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament on November 5 1605 has a modern-day equivalent in cyber-criminal activity.

“These days, every day is November 5. Cyber-criminals are a persistent and increasing threat to our parliament and those that work in it — we are under cyber-attack every minute of every day,” it claimed.

“Anyone that works on parliament’s network is [a] potential target for cyber-attacks. To protect parliament and yourself from these attacks, everyone must play their part.”

While attacks happen every day, few are reported to succeed. Most notable in recent years was a brute-force attack in 2017 that managed to compromise around 1% of around 9000 parliamentary email accounts. It was subsequently blamed on state-sponsored attackers from Iran.

MPs subsequently received follow-on vishing calls from hackers pretending to work for the Parliamentary Digital Service trying to trick users into handing over their log-ins.

Parliamentary email holders were sent nearly 21 million spam messages in 2018-19 financial year but internal security systems blocked them before they reached the inboxes of MPs, Lords and their staffers.

Spam can also come from unexpected places: in 2016 the speaker John Bercow was forced to intervene after MPs complained of being bombarded by emails from Donald Trump’s election team.

Bercow described it as an “exceptionally tedious experience.”

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