Iran thought to be behind cyber-attack on parliament

Theresa May was among those whose email accounts were targeted in a massive cyber-attack on Parliament

Iran was last night reported to be responsible for a massive cyber-attack on parliament.

A secret intelligence assessment has identified Tehran as the likely source of a ‘brute force’ attack that hit dozens of MPs this summer.

Around 9,000 email accounts, including those belonging to Theresa May and other members of the Cabinet, were targeted in the attack in June.

Russia was initially blamed. But, according to a report in the Times, the intelligence services now believe the attack originated in Iran.

It is thought to be Tehran’s first major cyber-attack on the UK and comes at a time when Mrs May is urging Donald Trump not to axe the Iran nuclear deal.

During a 12-hour attack in June a computer programme smashed through parliament’ s defences by bombarding email accounts with information.

Ninety accounts were compromised and the parliamentary email system had to be temporarily suspended.

Whitehall officials admit it is almost inevitable that some sensitive information was acquired by the hackers.

Mrs May was not affected as she uses a secure Downing Street email account for official business.

About 30 MPs are thought to have been hacked, although the list remains confidential.

Russia was initially blamed for the attack on parliament but it has now been reported the British intelligence services now believe the attack originated in Iran

Those affected have been told it is their legal duty to contact constituents and other individuals whose data may have leaked.

The hackers are understood to have left some kind of digital footprint or ‘calling card’ making it possible to trace the attack to source. An investigation by the National Cyber Security Centre and the National Crime Agency is continuing.

The NCSC declined to comment

The motive for the attack has not yet been established. Theories include the possibility of ‘classic cyberespionage’ aimed at discovering material that could harm UK interests. There are also concerns that the Iranians might have been trying to find embarrassing material on MPs that they could use for blackmail.

The attack underlines Iran’s emergence as a significant player in the world of cyber-warfare.

Sources described the regime as ‘highly capable actors in the cyberworld’.

One said: ‘It was not the most sophisticated attack but nor did it need to be. It is possible they were simply testing their capability.’