Wiltshire Police denies reports it suffered cyber attack by 'Russian hackers'

Force rubbishes suggestions its IT systems had been 'probed' after poisoning of spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury

Tom Barnes
Sunday 18 March 2018 19:00 GMT
Police are investigating the poisoning of Segei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury earlier this month
Police are investigating the poisoning of Segei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury earlier this month

Wiltshire Police has denied reports it suffered a cyber attack in the aftermath of the Salisbury nerve agent incident.

Questions surrounding a potential attack had been raised after staff at Wiltshire Council, with which the force shares an integrated IT service, found parts of the network had been shut down.

Council workers were unable to access emails on certain devices, leading to reports the measures were being taken due to an “attack from Russian hackers”.

Wiltshire Police said the outage was caused by maintenance work and there had been no intrusion into its IT network.

“The Wiltshire Police IT system is a shared system with Wiltshire Council and we have been kept fully informed of the planned maintenance work,” a spokesman for the force said.

“There has been no data breach to our force’s IT system.”

Cllr Ricky Rogers, leader of the opposition Labour group on Wilshire Council, told The Independent he was aware of problems on the local authority’s IT network this week.

“There have been problems receiving emails on certain iPads and mobile phones,” Cllr Rogers said.

“You have to use a computer to access them, I have had no problems doing that but I have not been able to read them on my iPad.

“It has not stopped the normal day-to-day running of the council, but there are a lot of people who work from home and they have not been able to get service.”

Wiltshire Council said it had not been a victim of a cyber-attack, adding routine security work to switch off access to emails from certain devices had been brought forward as a “sensible precaution”.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of government intelligence agency GCHQ, said it had not been asked to provide support to the council in relation to a cyber attack.

“GCHQ or NCSC have not been asked to provide support to Wiltshire Council into any probe in their IT systems,” NCSC said in a statement.

“As the UK’s technical authority on cyber security, a key part of the NCSC’s mission is ensuring that public and private sector organisations are protected against cyber threats.

“To that end, we routinely provide public bodies around the UK with general advice and guidance about how to protect their IT systems.”

Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in a critical condition in hospital after they were poisoned in Salisbury two weeks ago by the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said the UK has evidence the Russian government has been exploring chemical-based assassinations and stockpiling deadly nerve agents for the past decade.

Russia denies any involvement in the attempt on the Skripals' lives.

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