Computer hacking and theft rife in Whitehall

Hacking into Whitehall computers soared last year, with a 140 per cent rise in the number of reported incidents, according to a report published today.

An investigation by the National Audit Office, the public finance watchdog, found that Government departments reported 655 hacking incidents last year, of which 111 were successful. Most hackers were internal staff exceeding their authority to obtain unauthorised information to leak to outsiders, and got oral or written warnings. Twelve per cent of cases ended in legal action.

Last year, the Independent reported how high-security British Telecom records had been made available to members of public on the Internet. In its report, the NAO details how civil servants and outsiders conspired to defraud a Government department of £1.5m. Police are investigating and eight arrests have been made.

Other revelations included a civil servant obtaining personal details of colleagues to blackmail them; a Government official obtaining the private address of a married couple, possibly to assist in the kidnapping of the wife; and two staff members being prosecuted and fined £3,750 after leaking computer data.

Government computers are also increasingly prone to viruses and programmes designed to harm data and other software. Last year, Government departments and agencies reported a 350 per cent rise in virus incidents, to 562. Over half of these cases, NAO points out, were detected by anti-virus scanning software.

Two outbreaks were labelled "significant" by the NAO. The first was the discovery of 38 viral infections traced to one PC hard disk loaded with pirated computer games. Civil servants had been exchanging games by floppy disks or through e-mail. The viruses were the games manufacturer's own anti-bootlegging devices.

In the second, four PCs in a Government typing pool had been infected with a virus which took two days to eradicate.

If hacking and viruses were not bad enough, theft, reports the NAO, "continues to be a major problem, with portable computers, printers and laptop computers being the main targets."

There were 433 reported incidents of theft of Government computer equipment last year, a rise of 60 per cent. In all, equipment costing £1.2m was taken. This included two break-ins to the same office within three months and the loss of equipment worth £102,000.

The thieves, who have not been caught, were thought to have been "stealing to order." Likewise, the culprits behind the theft of 11 PCs and other hardware, worth £55,000, have not been found .

In one of the more bizarre incidents, somebody went to the trouble of taking a computer desk from a room and replacing it with an old one. The locked drawers of the desk were broken into, and information, mostly concerning the personal details of 300 staff, was scattered about.

The NAO acknowledges that the Government is not alone in this. The National Computing Centre's 1994 IT Security Breaches Survey, covering a cross- section of industry and commerce, found that 25 per cent of businesses had suffered theft of computer equipment in the previous two years.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
News
people
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living