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British voters’ data held by the Electoral Commission has been accessed as part of a “complex cyber-attack” that ran for almost a year without being detected.
In a confession published this afternoon (August 8, 2023), the watchdog said the incident, which was identified in October 2022, saw hackers access a swathe of personal information about voters.
Beginning in August 2021, hackers accessed the Commission’s email, control systems and copies of the electoral registers, which contain reams of private addresses.
They were also able to access permissibility checks on political donations.
Anyone registered to vote between 2014 and 2022 has had their name and address accessed by the hackers, as well as the names of overseas voters.
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The Electoral Commission has said they “understand the concern this attack may cause and apologise to those affected”.
They say the cyber attack is proof the UK’s democratic process remains “a target for hostile actors”.
Voters’ personal data affected by the breach includes:
- Name, first name and surname.
- Email addresses (personal and/or business).
- Home address if included in a webform or email.
- Contact telephone number (personal and/or business).
- Content of the webform and email that may contain personal data.
- Any personal images sent to the Commission.
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The Information Commissioner’s office says the above data “does not in itself present a high risk to individuals”, however warns voters could be identified and profiled if “combined with other data in the public domain, such as that which individuals choose to share themselves”.
The election watchdog says the attack “has not had an impact on the electoral process, has not affected the rights or access to the democratic process of any individual, nor has it affected anyone’s electoral registration status”.
They say that no immediate action by those on the electoral register needs to be taken.
Though they warn anyone who has been affected to “remain vigilant for unauthorised use or release of their personal data”.
The commission’s Chief Executive, Shaun McNally said he regrets that sufficient protections had not been put in place to prevent the attack.
Mr McNally adds that since the hack “we have taken significant steps, with the support of specialists, to improve the security, resilience and reliability of our IT systems”.
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