MPs targeted with nearly three million malicious emails per month

A view of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster
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The UK’s 650 MPs have collectively faced more a barrage of more than 22 million malicious emails during 2020, averaging roughly 2.7 million attempted cyber attacks per month.

MPs have faced a far greater volume of malicious emails between 1 January and 31 August this year than ever before, according to data obtained from the Parliament Street think tank through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The approximately three million malicious emails received between over the first eight months of the year represents a 60% rise on average against comparable figures from the previous year. Parliament Street research found that MPs faced 1.7 million monthly average attacks instead during 2019.

The sharp rise in the threat that senior politicians face coincides with a broad rise in phishing attacks sustained by people and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Research from F5 Labs, for example, shows that phishing attempts soared by 220% during 2020, with the company projecting a 15% year-on-year growth in attacks. This is in addition to a UN report pointing to a 350% rise in phishing websites at the start of 2020, according to figures released in August.

"These findings highlight the sheer scale of the threat that all businesses are facing,” said CEO of software firm Tessian Tim Sadler, comment on the research.


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“With millions of malicious emails being sent, the odds that one might work are high - especially if they are carefully crafted to evade detection. It just takes one busy and stressed employee to miss the cues or one very convincing message for cybercriminals to breach an organisation's security and access highly sensitive information.”

Like many businesses and industries, the public sector has been a particular target by cyber criminals over the course of the year. The NHS, for example, was flooded with 43,108 malicious emails since the coronavirus crisis took shake at the beginning of the year. Of these emails, 21,188 targeted NHS workers during March alone.

In order to mitigate the ever-growing threat of cyber intrusion, the UK parliament launched a two-year programme in 2019 to boost its cyber capability. This three-part plan involved a culture shift, an operating model review of cyber programmes, as well as a workforce management strategy for developing and retaining personnel.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.