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‘Brute force’ cyber attack on Scottish Parliament

Officials have confirmed that the Scottish Parliament has been targeted by a “brute force” cyber attack, similar to that which affected Westminster in June.

Chief executive Sir Paul Grice confirmed the attack in a message to MSPs and staff with parliamentary email addresses, and said the attack was from “external sources” and urged all members to be vigilant.

Grice added that systems “remain fully operational” and that “robust cyber security measures” had identified the attack early.

Grice also urged all MSPs and staff to make sure passwords were as secure as possible and that parliament’s IT team would “force a change to weak passwords as an additional security measure.”

“The parliament’s monitoring systems have identified that we are currently the subject of a brute force cyber attack from external sources,” wrote Grice.

“This attack appears to be targeting parliamentary IT accounts in a similar way to that which affected the Westminster parliament in June. Symptoms of the attack include account lockouts or failed logins.

“The parliament’s robust cyber security measures identified this attack at an early stage and the additional security measures which we have in readiness for such situations have already been invoked. Our IT systems remain fully operational.”

Hackers involved in a ‘brute force’ attack try to access systems by systematically using a range of different passwords in the hope that a correct password is delivered through trial and error.

 

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Employees are companies’ biggest data security risk

A consensus study commissioned by data security specialist HANDD Business Solutions (HANDD) has revealed that nearly a quarter of IT professionals believe that the behaviour of employees and their reactions to social engineering attacks – which can trick them into sharing user credentials and sensitive data – poses a big challenge to data security.

The survey of 304 IT professionals in the UK shows that 21 per cent of respondents say regulations, legislation and compliance will be one of the two greatest business challenges to impact data security. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is causing real concern among professionals in their bid to be compliant by the deadline, which is less than 12 months away. GDPR will not only raise the privacy bar for companies across the EU, but will also impose extra data protection burdens on them.

HANDD CEO and co-founder Ian Davin commented: “Companies must change their mindset and look at data, not as a fungible commodity, but as a valuable asset. Data is more valuable than a pot of gold, which puts companies in a challenging position as the stewards of that data. C-suite executives must understand the data protection challenges they face and implement a considered plan and methodical approach to protecting sensitive data.”

41 per cent of those surveyed assign the same level of security resources and spend for all company data, regardless of its importance. Analysing and documenting the characteristics of each data item is a vital part of its journey through an organisation. A robust data classification system will see all data tagged with markers defining useful attributes, such as sensitivity level or a retention requirement and ensuring that an organisation understands completely which data requires greater levels of protection.

“Employees are probably your biggest asset, yet they are also your weakest link, and so raising user awareness and improving security consciousness are hugely important for companies that want to drive a culture of security throughout their organisation,” commented Danny Maher, CTO at HANDD.

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NHS left vulnerable to cyber attacks

Experts from the British Computer Society (BCS) & The Chartered Institute for IT have claimed that a lack of investment in cyber-security software and accountability left the NHS open to the Wannacry virus.

The malware disrupted hospital staff across the UK in May as computers systems crashed, leaving frontline hospital staff unable to access important patient information, with operations cancelled and doctors and nurses forced to rely on hand-written notes to track patient’s case histories and treatments.

A report into the attack by the BCS found that the crisis could have been avoided had hospital IT teams had an official cyber-attack protocol, in-house cyber-security experts and up-to-date secure software.

‘’Patients should be able to trust that hospital computer systems are as solid as the first-class doctors and nurses that make our NHS the envy of the world,” said David Evans, director of community & policy at The Chartered Institute.

“Unfortunately, without the necessary IT professionals, proper investment and training the damage caused by the Wannacry ransomware virus was an inevitability, but with the roadmap we are releasing today, will make it less likely that such an attack will have the same impact in the future.”

The Chartered Institute of IT has joined forces with the Patient’s Association, the Royal College of Nursing, Microsoft to produce a blueprint that outlines steps NHS trusts should take to avoid another crippling cyber-attack.

Top of the list is ensuring there are clearly laid-out standards for accrediting relevant IT professionals. NHS board are being urged to ensure they understand their responsibilities, how to make use of registered cyber security experts and increase the number of qualified and registered IT professionals.