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Kent County Council computers targeted by 'millions' of Chinese and Russian hackers

Millions of Chinese and Russian hackers have tried to infiltrate the cyber defences of Kent County Council during the coronavirus crisis.

There were 76 million unsuccessful attempts from across the world at harvesting information stored at County Hall, Maidstone, between October to December last year.

County Hall at Maidstone has been under cyber attack
County Hall at Maidstone has been under cyber attack

Experts have revealed there were 38 million attacks by hackers from Vladimir Putin's Russia and another 30 million from Xi Jinping's China.

Andy Cole, head of technology strategy and commissioning at KCC, told a virtual panel of Kent councillors earlier today: "This is significant. It is like 76 million knocks on your door."

The council, supported by the National Cyber Security Council, has imposed a "zero-trust" approach tightening up on data loss protection, identity management and additional auditing.

Mr Cole, a former IT manager at the Kent Messenger Group, said: "There has been an increase in cyber activity over the last 12 months. Some have been raised by the pandemic and people taking advantage of the public wanting information on Covid.

"There has been an increase in phishing and spam emails, between 40% and 50% of all emails received.

Computer code on a screen with a skull representing a computer virus attack
Computer code on a screen with a skull representing a computer virus attack

"We have been getting persistent attempts from activists to penetrate our ICT borders."

He said the council's IT cloud services had "substantially" reduced the impact of cyber security attacks and helped protect staff during the pandemic.

There have also been software updates including Microsoft Office 365.

The news comes eight months after an anonymous criminal gang demanded an £800,000 Bitcoin ransom from KCC-owned Kent Commercial Services Group and then leaked private information on the dark web.

They encrypted a "significant number" of systems and data but no ransom was paid. No personal data was stolen.

County Hall, Maidstone
County Hall, Maidstone

Meanwhile, there were several high-profile UK cases of successful cyber-attacks over the past year including the publication of personal details of council staff and residents from Hackney Council last October

Mr Cole added: "We continue to mitigate current and emerging cyber threats by investing and continuing to invest in developing security technology and this must be maintained."

Gravesham county Cllr Bryan Sweetland (Con), who is KCC's policy and resources chair, described the revelations as "eye-opening".

Cyber attack
Cyber attack

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