United Kingdom

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

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.

Full Article: Leaked NHS dossier inquiry focuses on personal Gmail accounts | Politics | The Guardian.

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.

Full Article: Britain's Spies Probe Russian Election Meddling | Voice of America - English.

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.

Full Article: Poll Hacks: How Cybercriminals Aim To Disrupt Elections | Information Security Buzz.

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.”

Full Article: Leak of classified papers ahead of UK election tied to Russian operation: Reddit - Reuters.

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.

Full Article: Labour's Ben Bradshaw claims he was target of Russian cyber-attack | World news | The Guardian.

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.

Full Article: Elections: A New Battleground For Cyber Confidence - Minutehack.

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”.

Full Article: Notorious hackers claim responsibility for Labour DDoS.

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.

Full Article: Hackers hit UK political parties with back-to-back cyberattacks - Reuters.

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.

Full Article: General election 2019: Labour Party hit by second cyber-attack - BBC News.

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.

Full Article: Tech companies rush to fight misinformation ahead of UK vote.

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.

Full Article: PM accused of cover-up over report on Russian meddling in UK politics | Politics | The Guardian.

United Kingdom: How cyber criminals and fake news could ruin Britain’s next election | James Cook/The Telegraph

Elections in the UK are more likely to bring to mind visions of kindly pensioners in church halls ticking names off lists than shadowy hacking groups attempting to subvert democracy. But hackers, with terrifying powers to spread fake news on a massive scale, are fast becoming a reality of British politics. Last year, ahead of the local elections, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a division of spy agency GCHQ, published a starkly worded report for local authorities which warned of “insider activity” that could attempt to “manipulate or compromise electoral information or processes for financial gain [or] ideological reasons.” The report urged local authorities to make regular backups of the electoral roll and to keep these backups in secure facilities to make it more difficult for hackers to access them. Ask spies and security experts about the digital threat to elections and you’ll encounter the curious lexicon of intelligence agencies. Hackers are known as “threat actors” who engage in either overt or covert influence campaigns. And when hackers manage to break into a computer network, they typically create an “implant” which allows them to return or to funnel data out without anyone noticing. A series of government departments have found themselves at the frontline of the battle to keep elections secure. In recent months, committee hearings in the Houses of Parliament and briefings by spy agencies have outlined how the government keeps elections safe.

Full Article: How cyber criminals and fake news could ruin Britain's next election .

United Kingdom: “Highly likely” cross-government cell will be used to monitor interference and threats if election called | Derek du Preez/Diginomica

Senior civil servants giving evidence to the House of Lords Committee on Democracy and Digital Technology today gave insight into cross-Government work being carried out to monitor interference, disinformation and threats during elections – including the creation of an ‘election cell’ on the day of voting. Natalie Bodek, the acting deputy director of the elections division within the Cabinet Office, and Sarah Connolly, director of security and online harms at DCMS, both shared insights into how the government is collaborating across departments and agencies, as well as with social media giants, to monitor interference. Defending democracy from misinformation and digital interference has become a huge area of concern for governments across the world. Whilst no evidence has been found of online foreign interference in UK elections, it has been highlighted as a top priority by senior politicians and experts. Evidence on the topic has been collected by Parliamentary committees for some time now. A Commons Select Committee recently said that the “UK is clearly vulnerable to covert digital influence campaigns”.

Full Article: “Highly likely” cross-government cell will be used to monitor interference and threats if election called.

United Kingdom: Subcontractor’s track record under spotlight as London Mayoral e-counting costs spiral | Kat Hall/The Register

Concerns have been raised over a key supplier of an e-counting system for the London Mayoral elections in 2020. The contract, split between Canadaian integrator CGI and Venezuelan-owned Smartmatic, will cost nearly £9m – more than double the procurement cost of £4.1m for the system at the last election in 2016. During a July hearing about the 2020 elections at the London Assembly Oversight Committee, members heard that Smartmatic, which builds and sells electronic voting tech, had worked on the Scottish elections. However, the London Assembly has since confirmed to The Register that Smartmatic was not involved. The company was also recently blamed for a number of technical glitches in the Philippine elections. The London Assembly was told costs had increased because the new vote-counting system offered better functionality than the previous procurement.

Full Article: Subcontractor's track record under spotlight as London Mayoral e-counting costs spiral • The Register.

United Kingdom: Former Cambridge Analytica director, Brittany Kaiser, dumps more evidence of Brexit’s democratic trainwreck | Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch

A UK parliamentary committee has published new evidence fleshing out how membership data was passed from UKIP, a pro-Brexit political party, to Leave.EU, a Brexit supporting campaign active in the 2016 EU referendum — via the disgraced and now defunct data company, Cambridge Analytica. In evidence sessions last year, during the DCMS committee’s enquiry into online disinformation, it was told by both the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, and the main financial backer of the Leave.EU campaign, the businessman Arron Banks, that Cambridge Analytica did no work for the Leave.EU campaign. Documents published today by the committee clearly contradict that narrative — revealing internal correspondence about the use of a UKIP dataset to create voter profiles to carry out “national microtargeting” for Leave.EU. They also show CA staff raising concerns about the legality of the plan to model UKIP data to enable Leave.EU to identify and target receptive voters with pro-Brexit messaging. The UK’s 2016 in-out EU referendum saw the voting public narrowing voting to leave — by 52:48.

Full Article: Former Cambridge Analytica director, Brittany Kaiser, dumps more evidence of Brexit’s democratic trainwreck | TechCrunch.

United Kingdom: Cost of vote counting in London elections set to double | Jessie Mathewson/East London and West Essex Guardian

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has used e-counting since its first election in 2000. But critics have branded the new contract for the London Assembly and mayoral elections “the biggest waste of money at City Hall since the Garden Bridge”. GLA officials say the new contract will ensure better cyber-security and allow more testing ahead of the count, after a technical glitch delayed results in 2016. Speaking at a meeting of the GLA Oversight committee last week, Greater London’s deputy returning officer Alex Conway said the new contract was within budget. He said: “The money is sort of not the point – the point is to run a successful election.” But Pascal Crowe, democracy officer for scrutiny group Open Rights, said the GLA should release details of how it chose the winning bid. He said: “Given that the cost of the contract has more than doubled, taxpayers will want to know that their money is being spent wisely.” “This must be the biggest waste of money at City Hall since the Garden Bridge.”

Full Article: Cost of vote counting in London elections set to double | East London and West Essex Guardian Series.

United Kingdom: E-voting by touch-screen trialled in local elections | BBC

Voters in Gateshead are being invited to vote twice in the local elections – via the traditional ballot box and on a touch-screen computer. Only their ballot paper vote will count, with the e-voting just a trial. E-voting could eventually transform elections, doing away with the need for an election count. Several countries have experimented with such systems but security fears have held deployment back. Anyone wanting to take part has to record their vote via a touch-screen computer at the polling booth by entering a passcode issued to them, selecting a candidate and then receiving a paper receipt. All encrypted votes are published on the election website, where anyone will be able to look at the tally for each candidate. The system will flag up if any e-vote has been illegitimately modified. What made it different from previous systems was that it could be verified “end to end”, said the team at Warwick University who developed it, with funding from the European Research Council and Innovate UK.

Full Article: E-voting by touch-screen trialled in local elections - BBC News.

United Kingdom: Voter ID trials are dangerous. That’s why I’m taking the government to court | Neil Coughlan/The Guardian

On Wednesday, I received a date to attend the high court to fight against the government’s dangerous voter ID plans. This case is particularly significant for everyone who lives in my community because next May, for the first time ever, we will be asked to show identification in order to cast our vote at the local government election. Braintree district council, my local authority in Essex, is one of 10 boroughs across England taking part in the government’s pilot scheme, before it plans to roll out voter ID at the next general election. At first glance, these measures could appear reasonable, fair and innocuous. But on closer inspection, voter ID discriminates against people who are unable to provide identification with the ease that ministers, civil servants and most people take for granted – and naively think we all possess. As the Windrush scandal clearly demonstrated, many British citizens do not have official documentation, in fact, 3.5 million electors (7.5% of the electorate) do not have any photo ID.

Full Article: Voter ID trials are dangerous. That’s why I’m taking the government to court | Neil Coughlan | Opinion | The Guardian.

United Kingdom: Sajid Javid dismisses speculation of snap general election in June | The Guardian

Sajid Javid has said “the last thing we want is a general election”, emphasising that the government is still hoping to secure a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism for the Irish border backstop. The home secretary dismissed newspaper reports that Downing Street strategists were considering holding a snap general election on 6 June, if Theresa May cannot get her Brexit deal through parliament before the 29 March deadline. “The last thing we want is a general election, the people will never forgive us for it,” Javid told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show. “They want politicians to get on with the job. They have been given a very clear mandate, now it’s our job to get on with it.”

Full Article: Sajid Javid dismisses speculation of snap general election in June | Politics | The Guardian.

United Kingdom: Corbyn calls for snap election to help put an end to austerity | The Guardian

Jeremy Corbyn has called for a snap general election during a meeting of anti-poverty charities in Glasgow. He said people who have experienced “the brunt of nine years of austerity” must be allowed a new vote. The Labour leader met with voluntary organisations and charities working to tackle poverty in south-west Glasgow on Saturday, where he criticised “Tory cuts” while pointing to double-digit yearly increases in food bank use and falling life expectancy in Scotland’s most populated city. “People are suffering under austerity as a direct result of Tory cuts in Westminster passed down by the SNP in Holyrood,” he said. “The people who are bearing the brunt of nine years of austerity cannot wait years for a general election. They need a general election now.”

Full Article: Corbyn calls for snap election to help put an end to austerity | Politics | The Guardian.