Published: 10:30, 20 February 2018
A Kent council has suffered more cyber security incidents than any other local authority in the country, according to new data.
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council's systems were breached 62 times between 2013 and 2017 - two of which resulted in a corruption of data.
However, the town hall insists these were detected early on and stopped, and no downtime of council systems was required.
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Furthermore, no ransom was paid, and no data leaked outside of the council, while the other 60 events were detected and stopped before any damage was done.
The figures, compiled by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, show TMBC suffered more than twice as many incidents as the next highest town hall, Hertfordshire, which was breached 22 times during the same period.
Campaigners say the need to meet a rising demand for services against a backdrop of severe budget cuts, as well as the desire to innovate, is leading councils to embrace data-driven approaches.
Everything from social care for vulnerable children, waste collection, and council tax collection to planning applications produces large amounts of data within local authority systems.
Town halls then apply algorithms to identify areas where they should invest more to better respond to residents’ needs, such as exploiting vast amounts of the public’s data simply to assess whether an area needs more frequent waste collection.
he report adds: "While this might sound like a sensible approach to solving issues that affect citizens, the tale of data-driven local governance has a much darker side to it.
"Like any other area where new technologies are introduced to collect and analyse large amounts of personal data, serious concerns about people’s privacy and security need to be addressed."
Elsewhere in the county, Dover District Council suffered 10 cyber attacks and Canterbury City Council was targeted 12 times, while the county council was attacked three times over the four years.
According to the data, Ashford, Sevenoaks, Dartford, Gravesham, Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, Swale and Shepway did not suffer any attacks, while Thanet and Medway did not provide figures.
Darren Everden, IT manager for TMBC, said: "The council takes cyber security very seriously and uses robust software and procedures to monitor and report on all attacks made, whether successful or unsuccessful.
"IT staff regularly receive training to remain alert to cyber security, council staff receive cyber security awareness e-learning courses, and we are presently participating in a number of projects as part of the National Cyber Security Programme”.
More by this authorTom Pyman