Cyber criminals hit London tourist landmarks with 100 million attacks

Hackers breach emails systems and servers at Kew Gardens whilst the Natural History Museum, Tate Galleries and Imperial War Museum are hit by tens of thousands of attacks as fraudsters seek confidential data

by News Reporter on 18 March 2019 12:33

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Four of London’s top tourist attractions have been hit by 109 million cyber-attacks in the last few years, according to new research by the Parliament Street think tank. Research collated by a request under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, discovered that in the last three financial years Kew Gardens, National History Museum, Tate Gallery and Imperial War Museum were subjected to tens of millions of cyber security attacks.

The attraction with the highest number of security incidents reported was Kew Gardens which was hit by 86 million hacks last year, up from 16 million the year before – an increase of 438 per cent.

“Hackers are increasingly targeting organisations which appear to hold large amounts of personal financial data,” commented Tim Dunton, managing director of Nimbus Hosting. “The high volume of attacks in this case is reflective of the threat posed by cyber criminals going to extreme lengths to obtain confidential information.” Second highest was Imperial War Museum (IWM) which highlighted that over the last three financial years, it had seen over 10 million cyber security incidents in total.

Out of this figure, the IWM confirmed that there were eight successful ransomware attacks on its systems. Third was the Natural History Museum which reported 875,414 cyber alerts over the last three years, of which 26,610 incidents were considered ‘unmitigated’ threats.

The Tate, which oversees the Tate Modern and The Tate Britain galleries, cited 494,709 incidents of cyber-attacks in the last year but didn’t have access to the full figures. In the last three financial years, four security incidents were logged which contained malware and phishing attempts.

For Kew Gardens, out of the specific categories of attack given, spyware topped the list and was seen to have the largest jump, from 13,120,000 attempts in 2016/17 to a staggering 82,170,000 in 2017/18. This is a total increase of 526 per cent. The second highest category was information leak attempts which topped 1,663,500 for 2017/18, up from 1,540,000 the previous year.

Kew gardens has a membership database and holds financial information of over 100,000 people and almost 800 staff members. In 2017/18, one of Kew’s servers was breached by hackers and in the previous financial year, an email account was breached by hackers. Interestingly, under the virus/malware category, the number of attempts decreased from 376 in 2016/18 to 345 in 2017/18.

Sheila Flavell, COO at tech specialist FDM Group said, “It’s clear that cyber criminals are bombarding museums and tourist hotspots with malicious attacks in an effort to steal personal data and cause havoc. These incidents are a reminder of the urgent need to increase the UK’s level of cyber expertise by getting more people into the tech industry. To achieve this, we need a much sharper focus on boosting interest in this critical area, recruiting more women and encouraging a diverse pool of talent so that we have the skills needed to tackle this very real and relentless threat.”

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