UK government swamped by 20,000 email attacks per month

George Osborne revealed that government departments in the UK are receiving around 20,000 email based attacks a month, with experts saying that China is one of the main sources.

While it has been the private sector which has been the source of panic over security concerns following the ongoing Playstation Network debacle, the number of constant attacks on British government infrastructure shows that the public sector has not been forgotten by those seeking to steal information.

According to Gideon, during 2010, hostile agencies made “hundreds of serious and pre-planned attempts to break into the Treasury’s computer system,” supposedly averaging at more than one serious attack attempt per day, and making the HMT the most targeted in Whitehall.

Paul Cronin, Technical Director at Pentura, believes that the figure sounds accurate, if not higher than the Chancellor claims.

“There are certainly many criminal organisations that would want to conduct such attacks to gain information,” he told TechEye.

“But a lot of the threat comes from government agencies, with much of the attacks likely to be coming from China where they don’t seem to hide the fact that they train people to do this.

“And there are of course potentially a lot more attacks that are not even being detected so the figure of 20,000 could of course be higher.”

At the Google Zeitgeist conference, Osborne pointed to a specific attack which occurred last year where an email concerning G20 was swapped for a malicious file and forwarded to the same distribution list.

“To the recipient it would have simply looked like the attachment had been sent twice. Fortunately, our systems identified this attack and stopped it,” he said.

However, he also insisted that the government was working hard to make sure that there was adequate protection from such attacks – stating that the Coalition is“not taking this challenge lying down”.