Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK


UK: Scotland

Hackers hit ministers' Website again

The Scottish Executive Website was found to be insecure

Computer hackers have again breached security surrounding the Scottish Executive's Website.

The intrusion comes less than a week after it emerged that security measures had been tightened following a warning that the site was open to attack by hackers.


[ image: The site was taken down on Wednesday]
The site was taken down on Wednesday
The opening page, containing a foreword from First Minister Donald Dewar, was accessed on Wednesday morning and bogus text inserted.

Throughout the afternoon, the site was unavailable and the message "currently being updated" was posted on the home page.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said urgent talks were taking place with the site designers to find out the measures put in place since the original warning had been breached.

He stressed that the site did not contain sensitive information.

Campaign group

Security was tightened after a warning it was open to attack from hackers, terrorists and other criminals.

The administration's site was targeted by a group campaigning for greater precautions against information warfare.

The group said the security lapses meant hackers could have gained access and theoretically declared Scottish independence.

DNScon is a computer security conference which claims hackers, police officers and lawyers are among its members.

The group said the biggest loophole in the Scottish Executive's site lay open for months and remained open for several days after First Minister Donald Dewar was alerted to the problem.

'False information'

DNScon said hackers could have planted false information on the website, such as the results of a reshuffle of the Scottish cabinet, declaring independence, or manipulating the stock market by falsely changing taxes on North Sea oil or whisky.


[ image: Donald Dewar, pictured on the Website]
Donald Dewar, pictured on the Website
The Scottish Executive said there was "a potential security problem" which was discovered two weeks ago and the company which manages the site was informed.

A spokeswoman said a number of countermeasures were immediately taken.

Members of DNScon are normally publicity shy but one representative, known only as 'Mark', said the Scottish Executive's website failed to keep up to date with the latest security measures.

He said: "The Scottish Executive site was over a year out of date when it comes to these software patches and fixes.

"So the problems were known about in the computer industry for over a year and solved for over a year but they just had not got round, through their policies and procedures, to applying them.

'Simple addition'

"The giveaway was that by typing a simple addition to a web page address you could read code that you as a normal user of the website should not have been able to see."

The campaigners said the UK was not taking the dangers so-called of Infowar attacks seriously enough.

The group likened hacking processes to the Cold War and, in painting a doomsday scenario said InfoWar could mean anything from missile attacks on enemy radar and telecom centres, to the creation of computer viruses.

Disinformation and spin doctoring have also been seen as constituting InfoWar. The end aim of all these activities, the group said, is to win publicity in the same way that terrorist bombs do.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©



Relevant Stories

31 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Hackers hit Hotmail

18 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
Timor activists warn of cyber war

08 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
Software company challenges hackers

04 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Anti-virus company hacked

28 Jul 99 | Americas
US cyber-security plan under attack

28 May 99 | Americas
Security review after hack attack





Internet Links


DNScon

National Criminal Intelligence Service

2600 Hackers Quarterly

Scottish Executive


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Sport
Collins calls it a day for Scots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Death inquiry anaesthetist barred

Bowled over by Lord's

Ministers loosen purse strings

'Delight' at Tunnel court outcome

From Sport
Derby double swoop fails

Demands for far-reaching information bill

Gaelic makes sound use of the internet

Trusts 'ignoring' depression advice

BBC Scotland - On Air

'Little change' since poverty pledge

Nine hurt as bus crashes into pub

Teachers' union in pay body challenge

Dental death hearing adjourned

Parliament ponders Royal High flit

Reid quits PR job

Industry misses new trains target

Football and royalty dominate Westminster

From Sport
The next Battle of Britain

Man charged with murdering lab technician

Lockerbie trial judges named

Festival award for Ratcatcher