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British MoD Official Attacked by Overseas Spies through Spear Phishing

Recently, the UK's Defence Ministry announced that one of its top officials was attacked by a spear phishing attack to compromise confidential military information. The attack was executed by a foreign intelligence, as reported by Softpedia on November 22, 2010.

Remarkably, though, the incident took place in 2009, it was recently highlighted by Simon Kershaw, Head of MoD's Defence Security and Assurance, during a conference. Kershaw however, noted that this harmful plan was blocked when the official became suspicious of an e-mail, which she got from a person whom she had met at some conference.

The targeted official apparently reported the extremely personalized e-mail to the Ministry of Defence IT experts, who discovered that the attachment was infected with malware and was designed to disclose classified security information that could affect a nation's security.

The Ministry of Defence remained tight lipped on the attacked employee, but TheRegister (news website) found during its inquiry process that the actual target of spies' was Joanna Hole, who was the MoD's Head of safety and sustainable development till March (2010). She was accountable for business stability and frequently briefed ministers as well as the chiefs. Previously, as per Joanna's LinkedIn profile, she represented the MoD at the COBRA emergency committee.

Kershaw did not mention any name of foreign power responsible for the whole operation during the conference. However, the foreign power assumed of ordering the web attack was most possibly China, mainly because in February 2010, a report leaked from the MI5 (UK's Security Service), pointed towards China as a leading cyber spying threat for the UK. The threat was titled as "The Threat from Chinese Espionage" and was notified as restricted.

The report was circulated amongst leading business executives and city officials who frequently travel overseas and details surveillance methods generally utilized by Chinese intelligence agents.

Finally, the UK government regards cyber threats extremely seriously and ranks them at the top of the national security threats list, after terrorism. During October 2010, the Prime Minister David Cameron (UK) assured £650 Million in cyber security funding during the coming four years (2014), despite the government presently making serious budget reductions in other fields.

Related article: British Telecommunications Introduces New anti-spam System

» SPAMfighter News - 12/1/2010

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