UK Government Under Constant Cyber Attack

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The UK government’s computers are subjected to thousands of attempted cyber-attacks every month, the country’s finance minister said today.

The total number averaged out at more than one per day, and that’s just the ones targeted against his department.

George Osborne, the UK’s current Chancellor of the Exchequer, was speaking at a Google-sponsored technology event, Google Zeitgeist.

He said:

“In any given month there are over 20,000 malicious emails sent to government networks. During 2010, hostile intelligence agencies made hundreds of serious and pre-planned attempts to break into the Treasury‚Äôs computer system. In fact, it averaged out as more than one attempt per day.”

Mr Osborne also told this story about an attempt to infect the Treasury’s computers with malware:

“At some point last year, a perfectly legitimate G20-related email was sent to HM Treasury and some other international partners. Within minutes it appeared that the email had been re-sent to the same distribution list.

“In fact, in the second email the legitimate attachment had been swapped for a file containing malicious code. To the recipient it would have simply looked like the attachment had been sent twice. Fortunately, our systems identified this attack and stopped it.”

His comments were made during a wide-ranging speech covering many aspects of technology and government.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security software company Sophos, said he actually expected the numbers to be higher:

“It doesn’t seem an outrageous number to me, considering how many government email accounts there are,” he said.

“Clearly government networks are at risk – whether targeted or being hit as part of scattergun attacks – and we have to hope that the authorities are investing appropriately in security and education to ensure that sensitive information and systems remain secure.”

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, just how many cyber attacks are being carried out right now, by whom and against whom? The network must be humming with them, but so long as Facebook keeps working, most people will never notice.