A significant but unsuccessful cyberattack was launched on the Foreign Office and other government departments this summer, the head of the UK's communications spy agency has said.
Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) director Iain Lobban said on Monday that there was a "disturbing" volume of e-crime and attacks on government and industry systems, according to Reuters.
"I can attest to attempts to steal British ideas and designs — in the IT, technology, defence, engineering and energy sectors as well as other industries — to gain commercial advantage or to profit from secret knowledge of contractual arrangements," Lobban wrote in a piece for The Times.
"We are also aware of similar techniques being employed to try to acquire sensitive information from British government computer systems, including one significant (but unsuccessful) attempt on the Foreign Office and other government departments this summer," Lobban added.
Attacks on UK government systems are not new. A cyberattack in December last year succeeded in penetrating systems. Chancellor George Osborne said in May that hundreds of hacking attempts had been made on the Treasury between 2010 and 2011. In June, the defence secretary at the time, Liam Fox, added the MoD had blocked more than 1,000 potentially serious cyberattacks during 2010.
However, some have questioned how serious the majority of such attacks really are. In January, the London School of Economics's Peter Sommer highlighted Lobban's speech a year ago, in which the spy chief also said UK governmental websites were under persistent attack, and pointed out that GCHQ did not indicate a ratio of crude versus sophisticated attacks.