Nothing New Here Folks

“Parliament leaks like a sieve.” - That takes me all the way back to a weblog entry in 2002.

News today that the emails of Members of Parliament may have been compromised, stolen, hacked; you name it, comes as no great surprise. In fifteen years or more since I was invited in to discuss a similar problem with Parliament’s head of security, a former police officer, I somehow doubt very much has changed.

MPs were reportedly informed about the hack on Friday night and later told of difficulties in accessing their emails away from the Westminster estate.

The issue, I think we need to grasp, is that there’s a big difference between the .GSI, the Government Secure Internet and the personal email of Members of Parliament. In my time, one was built to be secure and the other assumed, that much like herding cats, the communications of MPs was intrinsically insecure; much, I discovered, like that of local councillors, during my brief foray into politics.

However, what is likely to be substantively different, in 2017, rather than 2003,is that nation states, let’s think Russia for a moment, might actively trawl or exploit personal email, looking for useful information, which can be aggregated and used to advantage and for any clues that might offer a useful backdoor into the Government’s secure intranet?

I do recall, thinking back a decade or more, that a concern at the time was less the Russians and more the Chinese. Given the very close relationship between BT and Huawei, it was feared, even assumed, that the systems being white-labelled and delivered into Westminster, quite possibly had key-loggers installed and there was an exhaustive exercise to try and rule this out. However, the problem with compiled microprocessors, is, as we’ve discovered to our cost in network routers, that it’s very difficult indeed to work-out exactly what they are doing without an ‘accurate’ copy of the source program.

Anyway, do the Russians or the Chinese, know anything more than they might know already? Perhaps through watching or BBC Question Time? I rather doubt it. Perhaps they are after our 'Top Secret' Brexit negotiations plans? If so, good luck to them because they will have likely changed again by the next Prime Minister's Question Time on Wednesday?

Parliament will always leak like a sieve and most if not many MPs that I know of, really don't have the time or interest to worry over internet security. It's the price we pay for our 'Open Democracy.'

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