Britain’s parliament was hit by a “sustained and determined” cyber attack designed to identify weak email passwords, just over a month after a ransomware worm crippled parts of the country’s health service, Reuters reports.
The House of Commons said it was working with the National Cyber Security Center to defend parliament’s network and was confident it had protected all accounts and systems.
“Earlier this morning we discovered unusual activity and evidence of an attempted cyber-attack on our computer network,” an email sent by parliamentary authorities to those people affected said on Saturday.
“Closer investigation by our team confirmed that hackers were carrying out a sustained and determined attack on all parliamentary user accounts in an attempt to identify weak passwords.”
Britain’s National Health Service was hit by a massive global ransomware worm in May which crippled the computer system and forced some hospitals to turn away patients.
The National Cyber Security Center is part of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy agency, set up last year to tackle what the government believes is one of the biggest threats to British security.
Chris Rennard, a member of the Liberal Democrat party in the upper House of Lords, was the first to draw attention to the problem, using Twitter to announce: “Cyber security attack on Westminster, Parliamentary emails may not work remotely, Text urgent messages.”
A spokeswoman for the House of Commons confirmed that unauthorized attempts had been made to access parliamentary accounts and said systems were in place to protect member and staff details.
“As a precaution we have temporarily restricted remote access to the network,” she said. “As a result, some Members of Parliament and staff cannot access their email accounts outside of Westminster.”
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