Cabinet Office beats off 1,000 cyber attacks in October

The Cabinet Office has suffered almost 6,000 cyber attacks this year with more than 1,000 incidents occurring in October alone.

The Cabinet Office has suffered almost 6,000 cyber attacks this year with more than 1,000 incidents occurring in October alone.

Cabinet Office minister Douglas Alexander revealed the scale of the attacks in a parliamentary written answer.

With the government stepping up preparations for a war with Iraq, Brian White, MP for Milton Keynes and a former IT professional, asked a series of parliamentary questions to ascertain government department's response to the threat of cyber terrorism.

While the Cabinet Office fought off 5,857 cyber attacks this year, the Foreign Office told White it had not been subject to a single attack.

"I was surprised that they were not on a par with some other departments," said White. "There is a possibility that they are not necessarily the most open department."

IT security consultants Mi2G said: "It is highly unlikely that attacks were not even attempted on the Foreign Office. At the very least the Foreign Office's Internet facing computers would have been probed or scanned for potential attack as this is a commonplace occurrence."

Peter Sommer, senior research fellow at the Computer Security Research Centre at the London School of Economics, said: "Most attacks people talk about are from the Internet and much will depend on the extent departments are connected.

"If you put up Web sites, people will throw probes at them but there is a difference between leaning against a front door and stamping all over the inside of a computer."

A Foreign Office spokesman insisted that the department was not trying to hide the number of attacks it had faced. "The reason why we have no record of digital attacks is probably because the term digital attacks can be defined in many ways. It is not secrecy," he said.

The Foreign Office is now upgrading its systems and intends to carry out a full penetration test in 2003.

White said that overall he was "reassured" that government departments are reviewing the security of their communication and information systems, but believes more can be done.

"Policies on security need to be constantly reviewed and monitored. Re-looking at security can't be done too often. What each department could do is collate statistics about attacks and publish them on a quarterly or bi-annual basis."

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