UK Labour Party Hit With 'Sophisticated and Large Scale' Cyber Attack During Election Campaign

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on November 6, 2019
Photo: Getty Images

The UK Labour Party announced on Tuesday that it’s been hit with a “sophisticated and large scale” cyber attack on its digital platforms but suggested that all of its data was secure.

“We have experienced a sophisticated and large scale cyber attack on Labour digital platforms,” a Labour Party spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. “We took swift action and these attempts failed due to our robust security systems. The integrity of all our platforms was maintained and we are confident that no data breach occurred.”

While its data may be secure, the cyber attack appears to have had an impact, at least temporarily, on the way the Labour Party is campaigning in the lead up to the December 12 election.

“Our security procedures have slowed down some of our campaign activities, but these were restored this morning and we are back up to full speed,” the spokesperson continued.We have reported the matter to the National Cyber Security Centre.”

The Labour Party did not specify what digital platforms had been hit and did not elaborate on who might have been involved. But Niall Sookoo, the party’s executive director of elections and campaigns, sent out a mass email yesterday to supporters saying that whoever was behind the cyber attack “had the intention of taking our systems entirely offline,” according to the BBC.

The UK is in the middle of an election between the conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the progressive Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The election was called after Johnson’s attempt to pass a Brexit deal stalled and it’s still not clear that anyone would be able to get a deal passed through parliament, no matter who wins. But there will surely be plenty of speculation about who’s trying to crack into Labour Party systems, especially if this cyberattack was truly “large” and “sophisticated.”

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Americans are painfully familiar with what happened in 2016 when Russian hackers stole Democratic emails and laundered them through WikiLeaks, dramatically shifting the news coverage at a time when Donald Trump was facing allegations of rampant sexual misconduct and even the rape of a 13-year-old girl at a party hosted by Jeffrey Epstein in 1994. Those issues magically disappeared from the headlines, all thanks to some strategic hacking sanctioned by the Russian government.

Was this cyberattack Russian backed? No one knows at this point, but here in the year 2019, there are a lot more state-backed hackers with a motive to see chaos in Europe. Even President Trump has consistently demeaned America’s relationship with its old allies in Europe, instead choosing to side with authoritarians in places like India, North Korea, Brazil, and Turkey.

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If you’re going to look around for who might have a motive to hack the lefty Jeremy Corbyn in favor of the conservative Boris Johnson, Russia would probably be pretty far down the list. But who knows? All we know for sure is that these cyber attacks against political campaigns around the world will continue, and they’ll keep making citizens of any liberal democracy question the validity of their own elections.

Whoever’s actually behind the hacks, these cyber attacks are bad news for anyone who cares about free and fair elections.

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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog