Politicians and election officials offered cyber protection ahead of UK election

By Thomson Reuters May 15, 2024 | 7:01 AM

LONDON (Reuters) – Politicians, election officials and other high risk individuals in Britain are to be offered support to help protect them from hacks by foreign spies ahead of an election expected later this year, the country’s cyber experts said on Wednesday.

The British government has spoken of a growing threat to democracy from people spreading disinformation and fake AI-created content online, to other states attempting to interfere in the political process.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and British security chiefs have warned that Russian intelligence and groups linked to the Chinese state were attempting to target British institutions and individuals, including lawmakers.

In December, the foreign ministry imposed sanctions on two Russian hackers who it said were working on behalf of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to target politicians, journalists and other groups by attacking their personal email inboxes.

Moscow has said there is no evidence for allegations of a digital spying campaign. China has said Britain has repeatedly hyped allegations about Chinese spies and cyberattacks.

The National Cyber Security Centre, part of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency, said its assessment was that the accounts of election candidates and officials, were “almost certainly attractive targets for cyber actors looking to carry out espionage operations”.

“Individuals who play important roles in our democracy are an attractive target for cyber actors seeking to disrupt or otherwise undermine our open and free society,” said Jonathon Ellison, NCSC director for national resilience and future technology.

“That’s why the NCSC has ramped up our support for people at higher risk of being targeted online to ensure they can better protect their accounts and devices from attacks.”

Those considered at risk will be able to obtain an extra layer of security on their personal devices to protect them from malware, spear-phishing – sending emails ostensibly from a trusted sender in order to induce individuals to reveal confidential information – and other threats.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alison Williams)