Treasury hit by cyber attacks

Steve Dinneen
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THE UK Treasury is subjected to sustained, malicious cyber attacks from foreign intelligence agencies, according to chancellor George Osborne.

An average of at least one “serious and pre-planned” attack is launched every day, with some 20,000 virus and spyware attacks taking place each year.

Osborne yesterday, speaking at Google’s Zeitgeist conference, gave an example of an attack that replicated an official email but swapped the attachment for a programme designed to steal information. He said:

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

Osborne last year earmarked £650m for a new national security programme, aimed at holding back the rising tide of digital crime. A major security breach struck the French finance ministry ahead of the G20 summit, with Chinese hackers suspected. The UK foreign office was also hit by a successful attack earlier this year.

Japanese computer giant Sony suffered one of the biggest online security breaches ever last month, when hackers stole information – including some credit card details – from around 100m customers.

Its PlayStation Network gaming and entertainment hub was partially restored over the weekend after weeks offline, causing massive damage to the firm’s reputation.

Yesterday it emerged hackers used Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud, or EC2, to mount the attacks.

It has raised questions about the safety of services like EC2 that allow anonymous use of servers.