Parliament hit by ‘sustained’ cyber-attack

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Parliament has been hit by a cyber attack, officials at Westminster say.

The “sustained” hack began on Friday night, prompting officials to disable remote access to the emails of MPs, peers and their staff as a safeguard.

The parliamentary authorities said hackers had mounted a “determined attack” on all user accounts “in an attempt to identify weak passwords”.

Government sources say it appeared the attack has been contained but it will “remain vigilant”.

A parliamentary spokeswoman said they were investigating the attack and liaising with the National Cyber Security Centre.

She said: “We have discovered unauthorised attempts to access accounts of parliamentary networks users…

“Parliament has robust measures in place to protect all of our accounts and systems, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect and secure our network.

“As a precaution we have temporarily restricted remote access to the network.”

‘Not a surprise’

IT services on the parliamentary estate are working normally and a message sent to MPs urges them to be “extra vigilant”.

But a number of MPs have confirmed to the BBC they are not able to access their parliamentary email accounts outside of the Westminster estate.

It comes just over a month after 48 of England’s NHS trusts were hit by a cyber-attack.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “We have seen reports in the last few days of even Cabinet ministers’ passwords being for sale online.

“We know that our public services are attacked so it is not at all surprising that there should be an attempt to hack into parliamentary emails.

“And it’s a warning to everybody, whether they are in Parliament or elsewhere, that they need to do everything possible to maintain their own cyber security.”

The latest attack was publicly revealed by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard on Twitter as he asked his followers to send any “urgent messages” to him by text.

Henry Smith, Tory MP for Crawley, later tweeted: “Sorry no parliamentary email access today – we’re under cyber attack from Kim Jong Un, (Vladimir) Putin or a kid in his mom’s basement or something…”

The government’s National Security Strategy said in 2015 that the threat from cyber-attacks from both organised crime and foreign intelligence agencies was one of the “most significant risks to UK interests”.

The National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of intelligence agency GCHQ, started its operations in October last year.

The National Crime Agency said it was working with the NCSC but the centre was “leading the operational response”.


Manchester Metrolink tram network ‘operating as normal’

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Technicians believe they have identified the major technical issue which stopped the whole of Greater Manchester’s tram network on Sunday.

The Metrolink failure, which is not being linked to a cyber-attack, was discovered at about 15:50 BST.

The system automatically shut down following a communications fault, Transport for Greater Manchester said.

The fault was fixed shortly after midnight and trams are now set to operate normally, said a spokesman.

Transport for Greater Manchester said it was “not an issue Metrolink has experienced previously”.

It was caused by “a component attached to the Metrolink control network sending out spurious communications, which resulted in the safety system correctly shutting down”.

Transport for Greater Manchester said it runs a closed IT network with high levels of security and there was no indication of any form of hacking or cyber attack which would also result in shutting down the system.

Head of Metrolink, Danny Vaughan, said: “I’d like to apologise once again for the disruption caused on Sunday.

“We will conduct a review to look at what lessons can be learnt to avoid this type of issue occurring again.”


Spy agency GCHQ investigates Tesco Bank cyber theft amid fears it was ‘state sponsored’

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Tesco has enlisted the help of spy agency GCHQ to assist its investigation of what is the most serious cyber attack ever launched against a British bank. The supermarket giant contacted the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a new part of GCHQ that tackles crime online and opened last month, after it learned of the theft at Tesco Bank at the weekend. The NCSC reports into GCHQ, the UK’s digital espionage agency, and has been providing “on-site assistance” to Tesco. It is working alongside the National Crime Agency to investigate the attack. Tesco Bank initially said on Monday that it had detected “online criminal activity” in 40,000 current accounts and that money was taken from half of them. Late on Tuesday, it clarified that 9,000 accounts had hit by “fraudulent transactions” and that it had reimbursed an estimated £2.5m to affected customers as a result.

The lender had been forced to suspend online transactions as it investigated the attack, which involved sums running into thousands of pounds being stolen from customers, but said last night that that normal service had now been resumed. Chris Philp, an MP on the Commons Treasury Select Committee (TSC), has suggested the theft could have been “state-sponsored”. The NCSC said it was “unaware of any wider threat to the UK banking sector connected with this incident”.

Andrew Bailey, the chief executive of City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority, told the TSC today that the attack against the lender “looks unprecedented in the UK”. He said that “it’s too early to give you a comprehensive account of what the root causes are” but added that the hack “clearly appears to be in the debit card side of online banking as far as I can tell”.

The bank has a total of 136,000 current accounts and offers services, including insurance and mortgages, to almost eight million customers.

 


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