Brian Sims

Ministry of Justice discloses two ransomware attacks in Annual Report

THE MINISTRY of Justice has admitted to falling victim to two ransomware attacks over the last two years. The first case was targeted against the London Borough of Hackney in October 2020, with the second against Ubiqus – a data processor which provides court recordings and transcription services – taking place in December 2020.

Analysed by niche litigation practice Griffin Law, the information focused on the attacks is outlined in the Ministry of Justice’s Annual Reports and Accounts. Both episodes were reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

According to the Annual Report, the first attack perpetrated against the London Borough of Hackney potentially compromised personal data which affected an “unknown” number of people. The incident was reported to the ICO on 29 October. The latter’s response is still pending.

The second attack against Ubiqus also impacted the personal data of an “unknown” quantity of individuals. The ICO eventually closed its investigation in this case and no further action was taken.

Personal data incidents

In total, between April 2020 and March 2021, 16 significant personal data incidents, impacting approximately 5,476 people, were reported to the ICO by the Ministry of Justice. The largest incident spanned seven months and potentially impacted over 5,200 individuals and 55 companies. This was due to an inaccurate change to ‘plea data’.

In another case, vaccination status data from up to 25 Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) staff was stolen from a third party occupational health provider staff member following a vehicle break-in. The data was eventually returned to HMPPS.

There were also a further 6,267 incidents during the time period which did not meet the threshold to be reported to the ICO.

These discoveries emerge just a month after the announcement of the UK Government’s National Cyber Strategy 2022, which aims to build a strong and resilient cyber landscape using prosperous digital infrastructure to fight the scourge of ransomware attacks.

The Government has committed to spend £22 billion on cyber-centric R&D, with technology taking a central role in national security going forward.

Adequate funding and staffing

Donal Blaney, founder of Griffin Law, commented: “For the rule of law to mean anything, the courts have to be adequately funded, properly staffed and competently run.”

Tim Sadler, CEO and co-founder of Tessian, added: “The threat of ransomware continues to spread like wildfire, causing devastating damage to companies and operations. The sad fact is that it shows no sign of slowing down. With the majority of ransomware attacks starting with a phishing attack, organisations across all sectors must have measures in place to catch these malicious e-mails as soon as they land in an Inbox. This will drastically reduce the chance of a tired, distracted or naïve employee from opening or responding to a convincing or tailored spear phishing e-mail.”

Edward Blake, vice-president of the EMEA region for Absolute Software, added: “Ransomware attacks have surged in sophistication and quantity over the last 24 months. All organisations have been – and will continue to be – impacted by this growing threat trend. As a result, it’s no longer safe to assume that bad actors haven’t already secured the means to breach a business’ systems.”

Blake continued: “On that basis, implementing ‘Zero Trust’ protocols to prevent malicious parties from moving laterally through a business’ network is a vital precaution that organisations must take to protect themselves against this elevated cyber threat. Further, protecting devices with resilient endpoint security that comes equipped with self-healing capabilities is vital in terms of ensuring that applications remain healthy and also that endpoints are fully protected against external cyber attacks.”

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