Labour Party cyber attack: What caused it?

The Labour Party has said it experienced a “sophisticated and large-scale cyber attack” on its digital platforms, which was later revealed to be a DDoS attack.

DDoS – or distributed denial-of-service – is a well known method for disrupting websites, but is it really that sophisticated?

– What sort of attack targeted the Labour Party?

A Labour source confirmed that the attack was DDoS in nature, meaning that the perpetrator attempted to cause its digital platforms to crash by flooding them with so much traffic from various sources that services struggle to load properly.

According to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the attacker does this by seeking the help of many thousands of internet users to each generate a small number of requests which collectively overload the target.

The attack can originate from willing accomplices or by unwitting victims whose machines have been infected with malware.

National Cyber Security Centre
NCSC has been informed of the attack, the Labour Party said (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

– Was it really a sophisticated attack?

Cybersecurity experts say the level of sophistication depends on who was behind it, but anyone can launch them.

“It depends on the attacker and structure,” said Dr Edward Apeh, principal academic in computing at Bournemouth University.

“It can be very simple if it’s a novice actually putting the system in place but if it’s an extremist attack, and given the level of the Labour Party, then you expect whoever is doing this to be several layers behind and wanting to be anonymous.”

An NCSC source told the PA news agency that it was a low-level attack.

– Who was behind the attack?

It’s not yet clear who caused the attack, though the Labour Party said it had informed the NCSC.

Dr Apeh explained: “Attribution for this problem here right now will be very hard except if a group comes out and says they are responsible – it’s going to be very hard to attribute the attack to any particular person, but it’s a technique used by all the known typical attackers from the North Koreans, the Lazarus Group, to even the Anonymous group, so any group can actually do this, it depends who’s driving them.”

A source from the NCSC said there was no evidence of state-sponsored activity.

NCSC source told PA the attack was low level
NCSC source told PA the attack was low level (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

– Did the attack result in services going down?

A spokesman for Labour said it took “swift action” and that attempts failed due to “robust security systems”.

“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,” he said.

– Was any data breached?

Labour said it was “confident” that no data breach occurred.

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