Britain’s opposition Labour Party has said that it had been targeted in a large-scale cyberattack on its digital platforms but was confident no data breach occurred – just weeks before a national election.
A spokesman for the party said on Tuesday that Labour reported the cyberattack to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and while the attack had “slowed down some of our campaign activities”, they had been restored.
Britain’s security services have warned about the risk of cyberattacks by Russia and other countries, including during elections, when both the country’s main parties launch online campaigns to target their messages to the voting public.
“We have experienced a sophisticated and large-scale cyber attack on Labour digital platforms,” the party’s spokesman said in a statement.
“We took swift action and these attempts failed due to our robust security systems. The integrity of all our platforms was maintained and we are confident that no data breach occurred.”
The attack was a DDoS – Digital Denial of Service – attempt in which a network of perhaps millions of software robots – “bots” – flood online services beyond their capabilities, causing networks and websites to crash, and sometimes exposing further security vulnerabilities, said NCSC, part of the country’s GCHQ signals intelligence agency.
“DDoS attacks are a common form of attack used by a very wide range of attackers. Mitigation techniques are available and worked in this case,” an NCSC spokesperson said.
The nature of such attacks often makes it difficult to attribute responsibility to any particular group, he said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the attack was extremely serious but successfully repelled by the party’s defence systems when the digital assault began on Monday.
“But if this is a sign of things to come in this election, I feel very nervous about it all,” Corbyn said.
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised as “shameful” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s decision not to publish a parliamentary report on Russian meddling in UK politics until after an election next month.
The report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) had been cleared by the security services – but it has not yet been given approval for publication by Johnson’s administration.
“I find it inexplicable that your government will not release a government report about Russian influence. Inexplicable and shameful,” Clinton told the BBC in remarks reported on Tuesday.
“Every person who votes in this country deserves to see that report before your election happens … There is no doubt – we know it in our country, we have seen it in Europe, we have seen it here – that Russia in particular is determined to try to shape the politics of Western democracies,” Clinton said.
Britain goes to the polls on December 12 in an election called by Johnson in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock in Parliament, more than three years since the country voted to leave the European Union.
Johnson was handed a significant boost on Monday when populist Eurosceptic Nigel Farage announced that his Brexit Party would not stand candidates in seats held by Conservative MPs.
Having previously threatened to run upwards of 600 candidates, about 300 party loyalists and would-be parliamentary contenders have been dropped – a move that angered many as they prepared their campaigns.
“I’m sorry to the people that have put their time and their money on the line,” he told LBC Radio, before confirming he would not be refunding any cash spent by his party’s dropped candidates.
Robert Wheal was to fight for Farage’s Brexit Party in the Arundel and South Downs constituency but was stood down as the seat is currently held by the Conservatives. He said the move was as a “disgrace to politics”.
“It’s putting Nigel before the country. He will go down in infamy, letting down so many good people with whom he sought their trust. He is finished as a politician.”
Wheal added: “All that Farage has exposed is his duplicity to so many supporters who had put their faith in him.”
Wheal said Leave supporters could “kiss goodbye” to Brexit following the decision and promised to spoil his ballot paper.
“It was made very clear to us all at the first Brexit Party rally that we will put country before party and that, if Farage managed to arrange a deal with Boris Johnson – that he would agree to drop his rotten Withdrawal Agreement and take on a no-deal – we would all stand down and support him.
“But what we have here is absolute codswallop.”