Scottish councils 'targets for foreign national intelligence services'

Written by Colin Marrs on 10 February 2016 in News

Report to Perth and Kinross Council committee confirms four local authorities north of the border were subject to ransomware attacks last year

Four Scottish councils were subject to 'ransomware' attacks last year, it has emerged, amid claims local authorities are targets for cyber-attacks perpetrated by foreign national intelligence services.

Such attacks see data encrypted and only released once payment of a ransom has been made.

The figure was revealed in a report presented to Perth and Kinross Council’s strategic policy and resources committee signed off by depute chief executive John Walker.


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The local authority blocked more than one million malicious connection attempts and encountered 774 viruses and malware on their network in November last year alone.  

“In December 2015 the council experienced degradation in its internet connection through the JANET network (which provided the council’s internet connection) as a consequence of a targeted attack on another part of the JANET network,” said the report, which was submitted in advance of a committee meeting today.

“The council was only slightly inconvenienced by this action, although during a similar incident in 2014 several local authorities in the west of Scotland lost internet connectivity completely for several days.

“This year four Scottish councils have also been subjected to a ‘ransomware’ attack - an attack which encrypts data and will release it only on payment of a ransom - with some limited success.”

The identity of councils hit by the attacks was not revealed, though the report said that Police Scotland always alerts councils where intelligence suggests potential threats to council systems.

“Local authorities are also considered to be targets for foreign national intelligence services,” added the report. “Information relating to these threats is limited, however, for reasons of national security.”

Perth and Kinross Council has also been subjected to increasingly sophisticated spam attacks, known as “spear phishing”. This involved specifically designed emails, which are sent over a period of weeks to “retrain” spam filters to allow malicious emails through.

“Whilst these attacks can be successful in penetrating our network, the risks are generally mitigated by user awareness – employees recognise the emails as suspicious and delete or report them,” said the report.

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