No, Minister, the figures don't add up

If official answers in Parliament are to be believed, the UK has the most secure IT systems in the known universe. Perhaps the Minister would care to comment?

Scene: the Ministry for Administrative Affairs. The Minister is peering at his computer. Enter the Permanent Secretary.

"Ah, Humphrey. I'm worried about all these hacking attacks on the Ministry of Defence."

"What hacking attacks might those be, Minister?"

"Exactly! According to these figures, there have been seven all year! I thought the Internet was crawling with cyberterrorists, desperate to launch our own missiles at Basingstoke. My PC at home got hacked within ten minutes of plugging it in."

"The MoD is very secure, Minister. They don't bother to report all the run-of-the-mill attempts."

"These seven must be very serious indeed, then!"

"By no means, Minister! As the report says, six are merely precursory scans. No damage done."

"So they're not serious, and they're not trivial?"


"What are they, then?"

"Minister, minister. Hansard doesn't limit its circulation to the godly. If we let details like that out, who knows what might happen?"

"Parliament might learn the truth about the state of the MoD's security?"

"There's no danger of that."

"Well. They could learn something from the Welsh, Humphrey. Look at this report – no attacks or fraud of any kind in four years."

"Exceptionally honest, the good people west of Bristol. Exceptionally good with IT."

"Same with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, two in four years at the Department of International Development, none at the FCO, two at the Lord Chancellor's office. Humphrey, what is going on? The place is full of bumbling idiots leaving laptops on trains, downloading pornography by the gigabyte and running IT projects with all the savoir faire of a nun let loose in Vegas with the church silver. And you're telling me we have watertight security?"

"I'm not telling you anything, Minister. The figures are there to do that. And don't forget, these are just the recorded incidents."

"What are the unrecorded figures, then?"

"Unrecorded, Minister."

"This is going to make things very difficult for me. I have to go out there and tell the businessmen of the nation to cooperate with the police when they're hacked. Tell the truth, even if it's painful. Together, we'll crack it. You know the sort of thing."

"I do. But don't worry, Minister. We have a protocol for this. Release the figures in the summer, when nobody cares. If anyone spots the anomalies — why, it depends how you interpret them. I think you'll find it's all a matter of definition."

"That's another thing, Humphrey. I can't find the definitions. These figures are meaningless. Ridiculous. An abuse of parliament!"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that, Minister."

"Would you say anything, Humphrey?"

"No, Minister."