Spy hackers 'pose major threat to UK'

Nigel Morris
Saturday 09 August 2008 00:00

Attempts by foreign spies, including Chinese, to hack into British computers pose a major threat to national security, the Government has warned. Electronic raids on communication and IT systems have been identified as the biggest threat to Britain after a 7 July-style attack.

Whitehall computer systems storing secret data, as well as commercially-sensitive information held by British companies, are under constant attack from hackers. The Government's first national risk register also warned of the danger from a flu pandemic, coastal flooding or a major industrial accident.

It said: "The UK does remain subject to high levels of covert non-military activity by foreign intelligence organisations. They are increasingly combining traditional intelligence methods with new technical attacks, for example attempting to penetrate computer networks via the internet."

Whitehall sources have warned that the Government faces constant cyber-attack from the Chinese. The Russians are also suspects.

The Government stated that the most likely threat to Britain came from a terrorist attack on travellers. Trains are judged to be "more vulnerable" than aeroplanes because of the security measures in airports.

A flu pandemic was rated the threat that would have the biggest impact on the UK and the fifth most likely to happen. An outbreak could claim up to 750,000 lives, with 30 million infected. The Government has enough doses of the antiviral drug oseltamivir, (Tamiflu), to treat a quarter of the population. "This should be sufficient to treat a pandemic of similar proportions to those that occurred in the 20th century," said the register.

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