United Kingdom

Articles about voting issues in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

United Kingdom: Russians hacked Liam Fox’s personal email to get US-UK trade dossier | Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

A personal email account belonging to Liam Fox, the former trade minister, was repeatedly hacked into by Russians who stole classified documents relating to US-UK trade talks, the Guardian understands. The security breaches last year, which are subject to an ongoing police investigation, pose serious questions for the Conservative MP who is currently the UK’s nominee to become director general of the World Trade Organization. Whitehall sources indicated the documents were hacked from a personal account rather than a parliamentary or ministerial one, prompting Labour to ask why Fox was using unsecured personal emails for government business. A spokesman for the former minister declined to comment and later stressed the Cabinet Office had not publicly confirmed which account was hacked. Downing Street and the Cabinet Office said it was inappropriate to comment further given that criminal inquiries were continuing. The stolen documents – a 451-page dossier of emails – ultimately ended up in the hands of Jeremy Corbyn during last winter’s election campaign after Russian actors tried to disseminate the material online. Read More

United Kingdom: The Guardian view on delaying elections: it’s what autocrats do | The Guardian

Postponing elections is what autocracies do. On Friday, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, announced a delay to September’s planned legislative council (LegCo) elections. Ms Lam cited the coronavirus public health emergency as her justification. Yet the real reason is Hong Kong’s political emergency. Hong Kong’s elections have been postponed because even with its very limited democracy, Ms Lam and the Chinese government are afraid the voters will choose a LegCo with greater sympathy for the protests. In spite of their very different systems, Donald Trump’s reasons for proposing the postponement of November’s US presidential election are essentially the same. Mr Trump also cites the pandemic. But his real motives are also political. He thinks he is losing the campaign. He thinks Joe Biden will be elected in November. He wants to stop him if he can, by fair means or foul. And he wants to discredit his own defeat. Yet, there are significant differences between the two cases, which need to be understood. These make Mr Trump’s move in some respects even more sinister. There is nothing in the US constitution that permits the president to postpone an election. The date is fixed by law. Such a change would require an act of both houses of Congress, so it is not going to happen. Even Republicans admit this. In any event, a postponement would not allow Mr Trump to continue in office beyond January 2021. Read More

United Kingdom: ISC Attributes Cyber-Attacks and Election Interference to Russia | Dan Raywood/Infosecurity Magazine

Russia has been named as a “highly capable cyber-actor” by the UK government’s Intelligence and Security Committee. Claiming that “the UK is one of Russia’s top Western intelligence targets,” particularly given the UK’s firm stance against recent Russian aggression and the UK-led international response to the 2018 Salisbury attack, the ISC warned that Russia’s intelligence services are disproportionately large and powerful and are able to act without constraint. This has allowed a fusion between state, business and serious and organized crime making Russia an all-encompassing security threat. In terms of the cyber-threat, the ISC report stated that Russia employs organized crime groups to supplement its cyber-skills and carries out malicious cyber-activity in order to assert itself aggressively with democratic interference having “undertaken cyber pre-positioning on other countries’ Critical National Infrastructure.” The report claimed: “Given the immediate threat this poses to our national security, we are concerned that there is no clear coordination of the numerous organizations across the UK intelligence community working on this issue; this is reinforced by an unnecessarily complicated wiring diagram of responsibilities amongst Ministers.” Read More

United Kingdom: After the Russia report: how to protect British democracy from interference | Paul Baines/The Conversation

The UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has finally published its long overdue report on Russian interference in UK elections, nearly a year and a half after its completion and eight months after it was due for release. Even the public was incensed with the delay – a parliamentary petition calling for its release gathered more than 105,000 signatures. While the report doesn’t provide concrete evidence of how the Russian state has interfered in UK elections, it highlights that Russia is a major threat to British democracy and political decision-making. MPs on the committee criticised the government for failing to curb Russian interference. Attention must now turn to how British democracy can be protected in future. The release of the report was delayed in November 2019 until after the December election. There has been much speculation about the reasons for the delay, including that the report contained juicy details of the Conservative Party’s connivance with Russian donors. These were not detailed directly in the report – although Russian donations to political parties in general were highlighted. It is worth noting that despite strict disclosure rules for MPs, there is no requirement for members of the House of Lords to register individual donations of more than £100 received for any outside employment. The committee pointed to the need for a US-style Foreign Agents Registration Act to curb such lobbying. The delay in publishing the report before the election was not surprising – it would have been foolish to openly publish a document providing the blueprints for how to interfere in British politics prior to a general election. Read More

United Kingdom: Russia report reveals UK government failed to investigate Kremlin interference | Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

British government and British intelligence failed to prepare or conduct any proper assessment of Kremlin attempts to interfere with the 2016 Brexit referendum, according to the long-delayed Russia report. The damning conclusion is contained within the 50-page document from parliament’s intelligence and security committee, which said ministers “had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes”. The committee, which scrutinises the work of Britain’s spy agencies, said: “We have not been provided with any post-referendum assessment of Russian attempts at interference” – and contrasted the response with that of the US. “This situation is in stark contrast to the US handling of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, where an intelligence community assessment was produced within two months of the vote, with an unclassified summary being made public.” Committee members said they could not definitively conclude whether the Kremlin had or had not successfully interfered in the Brexit vote because no effort had been made to find out. Read More

United Kingdom: ‘No One’ Protected British Democracy From Russia, U.K. Report Concludes | tephen Castle and Mark Landler/The New York Times

Russia has weaponized information as part of a broad and long-running effort to interfere in the British political system and sow discord, and those efforts were widely ignored by successive British governments, according to a long-awaited report released on Tuesday by the British Parliament. While the report examined Russia’s possible role in fomenting conflict surrounding some of the United Kingdom’s most divisive political battles in recent years — including the 2016 Brexit referendum that rejected membership of European Union and a 2014 referendum in which Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom — it did not draw conclusions on the success of those efforts. Instead, the authors of the report told British lawmakers that they could not speak to the effectiveness of the Russian influence campaign because the government had failed to even be alert to the threat despite years of mounting evidence. It raised a fundamental question: Who is protecting the country’s democratic system? “No one is,” was the answer given by the authors. “The government here has let us down,” Kevan Jones, a member of Parliament who served on the intelligence committee that released the report, said at a news conference. Read More

United Kingdom: Britain says Russia tried to meddle in election by leaking U.S. trade documents | Guy Faulconbridge/Reuters

Britain said on Thursday Russia had tried to interfere in its 2019 general election by illicitly acquiring sensitive documents relating to a planned free trade agreement with Washington and leaking them online. Russia, which has also faced allegations of trying to influence the outcome of elections in the United States and France, did not immediately respond to the accusation but has previously denied meddling in foreign countries. British foreign minister Dominic Raab said a government investigation had found that Russia tried repeatedly to meddle in last December’s election won by the Conservative Party, though the ultimate aim was not immediately published. “It is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents,” Raab said in a statement. “Sensitive government documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were illicitly acquired before the 2019 General Election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit.” The investigation found that when these documents made little impact, further attempts were made to promote illicitly obtained material online before the election, Raab said. Read More

United Kingdom: Inside the troubled, glitchy birth of parliament’s online voting app | Chris Stokel-Walker/WIRED UK

A system that allows MPs to vote in parliament while working remotely has been beset by technical and testing issues, according to people familiar with its development. WIRED understands that two tests of the system have taken place this week. One involved around 30 participants, and the second involved several hundred. Altogether, 430 people have tested the voting app, only a handful of them MPs: House of Commons and Lords staff, and workers in the Parliament Digital Services group were also asked to play the role of MPs during the test environment. Messaging about the voting system, which piggybacks on existing parliamentary IT systems, through the MPs MemberHub application, hasn’t been enormously clear. Only a few of the MPs we approached for this story knew that the app existed at all, and fewer still knew of anyone who had partaken in the voting trial. Those who were privy to the trial reported back to authorities that the system struggled to cope with demand from the number of users, particularly on the second, larger test. Read More

United Kingdom: Ministers will no longer claim ‘no successful examples’ of Russian interference | Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

Ministers have been told they can no longer say there have been “no successful examples” of Russian disinformation affecting UK elections, after the apparent hacking of an NHS dossier seized on by Labour during the last campaign. The dropping of the old line is the first official admission of the impact of Kremlin efforts to distort Britain’s political processes, and comes after three years of the government’s refusal to engage publicly with the threat. Cabinet Office sources confirmed the position been quietly changed while an investigation into the alleged hacking of the 451-page cache of emails from a special adviser’s personal email account by the security services concludes. Boris Johnson and his predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, have both appeared reluctant to discuss Kremlin disinformation, with Johnson refusing to allow a report on Russian infiltration in the UK to be published before the election. Read More

United Kingdom: Leaked NHS dossier inquiry focuses on personal Gmail accounts | Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

Britain’s security agencies are investigating whether hackers from a hostile state successfully targeted a personal Gmail account to access an explosive cache of correspondence that was seized on by Labour during the election campaign. The leak inquiry into how the 451-page dossier got into the public domain is focused on the Department for International Trade. Jeremy Corbyn said during the campaign that the documents proved the NHS was “on the table” in future US trade talks. Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, warned ministerial special advisers at a meeting on Tuesday not to use personal Gmail accounts because “foreign powers” were targeting them. Special advisers are not supposed to use personal accounts for government business but, in practice, some communications are conducted via private accounts, where security may be weaker because they are outside official networks. It is not clear which country – if any – is behind the alleged hack, but independent analysts have already suggested that the cache was originally disseminated online by a Russian operation known as Secondary Infektion. Read More

United Kingdom: Britain’s Spies Probe Russian Election Meddling | Jamie Dettmer/VoA News

Britain’s cybersecurity agency is investigating whether state-sponsored Russian hackers were behind the leaks of British government documents used by opposition politicians to embarrass Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party ahead of Thursday’s general election. The official probe into the origin of the leaked material — which included documents detailing discussions between British and U.S. negotiators on a possible post-Brexit transatlantic trade deal — comes days after the social media site Reddit announced it had blocked 61 accounts linked to the dissemination of the documents after investigating suspect activity bearing similarities to previous Russian online influence operations. The leaked documents were used by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, as “evidence” that the Conservatives might include the country’s public health service in any future trade deal with the United States — a claim firmly denied by British Prime Minister Johnson. Corbyn, other Labour leaders, as well as Scottish nationalists, have contended that the Conservatives will “sell off” the National Health Service to American companies in order to secure a trade deal. Read More

United Kingdom: Poll Hacks: How Cybercriminals Aim To Disrupt Elections | David Warburton/Information Security Buzz

The UK general election is almost upon us, and it is already turning into one of the most divisive and analysed political events in the country’s history. Discourse and debate are reaching fever pitch, from parliamentary benches and constituency doorsteps, to every conceivable media platform in play. It is no surprise then that an air of online volatility persists more than usual. At this moment in time, every new election is likely the most tech-enabled and at risk addled yet. Labour was most recently under the cybersecurity cosh, enduring what it termed as “sophisticated and large-scale” attempt to knock out its digital systems earlier in the month (it turned out to be a set of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks). Just the other day, Labour candidate Ben Bradshaw also claimed to be a victim of a suspected cyber-attack when he received an email with sophisticated malware attachments. These are politically unprecedented times and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre knows it. Last year, the government-backed organisation issued a direct warning ahead of local elections, citing potential “insider activity” attempting to “manipulate or compromise electoral information.” Similar warnings are in place for 2019. There are many ways to knock an election off course. Below are some of the main existing and emerging cyber threats to bear in mind as we head to the polls this week.  It is, however, worth noting that variations of these methods are possible throughout the year as hackers opportunistically hijack political developments in real-time. Read More

United Kingdom: Leak of classified papers ahead of UK election tied to Russian operation: Reddit | Jack Stubbs/Reuters

The leak and distribution of classified UK-U.S. trade documents online is tied to a previous Russian disinformation campaign, social media site Reddit said on Friday, fuelling fears that Moscow is seeking to interfere in Britain’s upcoming election. Britain’s opposition Labour Party seized on the leaked documents on Nov. 27, saying they showed the ruling Conservatives were plotting to offer the state-run National Health Service (NHS) for sale in trade talks with Washington. The NHS is much loved by Britons and has become an important issue in the country’s election campaign, in which Labour trails the Conservatives despite cutting its lead in some polls. But researchers told Reuters on Monday that the way the documents were first shared on Reddit and then promoted online closely resembled a disinformation campaign uncovered earlier this year. That operation — known as Secondary Infektion — attempted to spread false narratives across at least 30 online platforms, and stemmed from a network of social media accounts which Facebook said “originated in Russia.” Read More

United Kingdom: Labour’s Ben Bradshaw claims he was target of Russian cyber-attack | Luke Harding/The Guardian

The Labour candidate Ben Bradshaw has said he has been the victim of a suspected Russian cyber-attack after he received an email from Moscow with attachments containing sophisticated malware. Bradshaw – who has repeatedly raised the subject of Kremlin interference in British politics, including in the EU referendum – received the email at his election gmail address. The sender – “Andrei” – claimed he was a whistleblower from inside Vladimir Putin’s presidential administration. The email contained several apparently genuine documents. They showed how the Kremlin has set up a secret “fake news unit” in Russia’s far east region which is used to suppress negative stories and to boost pro-government sentiment. However, two of the documents carried malicious code. Read More

United Kingdom: Elections: A New Battleground For Cyber Confidence | Stuart Reed/Minutehack

Elections make for a volatile time, not only in politics but also in terms of resilience to cyber attack. They offer an opportunity for citizens to have an opinion on the governance of their country and beg the question, ‘do you have trust in the country’s governance?’. The consequences of a cyber attack during an election campaign can therefore be extremely damaging; with the potential to both undermine trust and give life to disinformation campaigns that may have otherwise been ignored. The Labour Party knows this only too well after suffering the consequences of two DDoS attacks in 24 hours. While Labour has publicly said that they have dealt with the incident ‘quickly and efficiently’, it has led to a wider debate around cyber security and underlines that attacks do not necessarily have to be sophisticated in nature to succeed. Consequently, getting the security basics right is now more essential than ever before. Our research has shown that this disconnect isn’t so unusual. When surveying almost 300 CISOs we found that the cyber confidence among CISOs often doesn’t align with that of the business. Indeed, more than a third of security professionals were not moderately or very confident with the final choice of security solution, despite 71% saying that their organisation touts its cyber robustness to partners and customers. Read More

United Kingdom: Notorious hackers claim responsibility for Labour DDoS | Alex Scroxton/Computer Weekly

Hacking group Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for the 12 November distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the Labour Party, according to private messages exchanged with The Independent. Better known for targeting online gaming services, including Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox networks, as well as celebrity social media accounts and, on one occasion, an airline, Lizard Squad tends to focus on large-scale DDoS attacks that generate substantial publicity. A Twitter account allegedly associated with the group said on 12 November that the DDoS attack was taking place because “no terrorist-supporting government should allow to rule [sic] a country”, a likely reference to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s views on the Northern Ireland peace process and his frequent contacts with prominent Sinn Féin members during the Troubles. The account said the botnet used in the attack incorporated millions of devices on a global scale, to “enable more power to process such attacks”. Read More

United Kingdom: Hackers hit UK political parties with back-to-back cyberattacks | Jack Stubbs/Reuters

Hackers hit Britain’s two main political parties with back-to-back cyberattacks on Tuesday, sources told Reuters, attempting to force political websites offline with a flood of malicious traffic just weeks ahead of a national election. The attacks come after Britain’s security agencies have warned that Russia and other countries may attempt to disrupt the Dec. 12 vote with cyberattacks or divisive political messages on social media, a charge Moscow denies. The opposition Labour Party said on Tuesday morning it had “experienced a sophisticated and large-scale cyberattack on Labour digital platforms,” but that the attack was repelled and no data was compromised. Just hours later, the party’s website and other online services came under a second digital bombardment, followed by a third attack on the website of the governing Conservative Party shortly before 1600 GMT, according to two people with knowledge of the matter and documents seen by Reuters. The sources said there was currently nothing to link the attacks on either party to a foreign state. One of sources said the attack on the Conservatives was larger and appeared to be conducted by different hackers, but did not take down any party websites. Read More

United Kingdom: Labour Party hit by second cyber-attack | BBC

Labour is reportedly suffering a second cyber-attack after saying it successfully thwarted one on Monday. The party says it has “ongoing security processes in place” so users “may be experiencing some differences”, which it is dealing with “quickly”. The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack floods a computer server with traffic to try to take it offline. The BBC’s Gordon Corera has been told Monday’s attack was not linked to a state. Earlier, a Labour source said that attacks came from computers in Russia and Brazil. Our security correspondent said he had been told the first attack was a low-level incident – not a large-scale and sophisticated attack. A National Cyber Security Centre spokesman said the Labour Party followed the correct procedure and notified them swiftly of Monday’s cyber-attack, adding: “The attack was not successful and the incident is now closed.” Meanwhile, Labour has denied that there has been a data breach or a security flaw in its systems after the Times reported the party’s website had exposed the names of online donors. Read More

United Kingdom: Tech companies rush to fight misinformation ahead of UK vote | David Klepper & Dabica Kirka/Associated Press

Facebook is opening up a war room to quickly respond to election hoaxes. Twitter is banning political ads. Google plans to crack down on bogus videos on YouTube. Social media platforms say they are mounting a vigorous campaign against misinformation in the lead up to next month’s general election in the United Kingdom. But digital misinformation experts believe British voters remain vulnerable to the same type of misleading ads and phony claims that played a role in the vote to leave the European Union three years ago. Government inaction on online misinformation and digital ad regulations have added to the pressure internet companies are under as they face growing criticism for amplifying false claims during the run up to the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2016 election in the U.S. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed for the snap Dec. 12 election, in which voters will choose 650 representatives to the House of Commons, hoping his Conservative Party will gain enough seats to break a stalemate over his plan to take Britain out of the EU. And with campaigns barely under way, falsehoods are already spreading online. Read More

United Kingdom: Prime Minister accused of cover-up over report on Russian meddling in UK politics | Dan Sabbagh and Luke Harding/The Guardian

Boris Johnson was on Monday night accused of presiding over a cover-up after it emerged that No 10 refused to clear the publication of a potentially incendiary report examining Russian infiltration in British politics, including the Conservative party. Downing Street indicated on Monday that it would not allow a 50-page dossier from the intelligence and security committee to be published before the election, prompting a string of complaints over its suppression. The committee’s chairman, Dominic Grieve, called the decision “jaw dropping”, saying no reason for the refusal had been given, while Labour and Scottish National party politicians accused No 10 of refusing to recognise the scale of Russian meddling. Fresh evidence has also emerged of attempts by the Kremlin to infiltrate the Conservatives by a senior Russian diplomat suspected of espionage, who spent five years in London cultivating leading Tories including Johnson himself. Read More