After revelations by the intelligence community as to the influence of Russia on the US presidential election in November, British Prime Minister Theresa May is under mounting pressure to guard the UK against similar interference from abroad. On December 30th, the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats as retaliation for cyber-attacks and the release of private emails from the Democratic National Committee, an action that intelligence officials believe was ordered at high levels of the Russian government. Intelligence services also released a report with details on the alleged hacking and leaking of emails. Since then, concerns have been raised about hacking by foreign powers.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson called into question whether the UK government was taking appropriate measures to the protect the UK from such cyber-attacks. May has said that it is up to individual political parties to guard against attacks such as these. The government has not offered extra help since the revelations about the US attacks. Robertson, who is a member of the House of Commons intelligence and security committee, said:
“Given current known threats, it would be extremely unwise and reckless not to take every precaution.”
That committee oversees intelligence agencies.
Similar concerns in France since the US hack has led to major political parties receiving advice from security services on how to guard against attacks. One UK government source with knowledge of the issue said:
“MPs from across the House of Commons who understand the nature of the cybersecurity threat and the vulnerabilities of political parties are in agreement that something needs to be done involving the security agencies. It cannot be right that other countries are taking this seriously but the UK is not.”
On Monday, the joint committee on the UK’s national security strategy launched an investigation into digital security. Its chair, former Labour foreign secretary Dame Margaret Beckett, said:
“While the digital revolution has opened up a whole host of opportunities, it has also created new vulnerabilities. The national security implications of the leap to cyber are a matter of increasing concern. Attention has recently focused on the potential exploitation of the cyber-domain by other states and associated actors for political purposes, but this is just one source of threat that the government must address through its recently launched five-year strategy.”