Russian meddling again? Hackers target Britain's Tories and Labour ahead of December 12 elections

There are concerns in the UK that Russian agencies may try to disrupt the December 12 elections with the help of concerted cyber attacks

 British counterpart Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson IANS

Britain's two largest political parties, the Conservatives and Labour, were targeted in a series of cyberattacks on Tuesday, even as the deeply divided nation is inching closer to an all too important general election in December. The back-to-back cyber attacks were aimed at forcing the websites of the main parties offline with a spike in malicious traffic, Reuters reported.

The reports assumes in the backdrop of concerns in the UK that Russian agencies may try to disrupt the December 12 elections with the help of concerted cyber attacks. Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced tremendous pressure this week to publish as parliamentary committee's report on the alleged Russian meddling in UK elections.

The report by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee deals with the alleged attempts by Russia to meddle in the UK elections in 2016 as well as the vote to leave the European Union. Moscow has vehemently denied the charges. Russia was also accused of trying to influence the United States Presidential elections in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party said it "experienced a sophisticated and large-scale cyberattack on Labour digital platforms." Hours after the the party clarified that no data was compromised, a second attack was launched wherein the "website and other online services came under a second digital bombardment," Reuters reported. This was followed by an attack on the website of the Conservative Party.

Earlier, UK Cabinet minister Rishi Sunak defended the decision not to publish the parliamentary committee's report on Russian meddling. The decision was severely criticised by the opposition and polling experts. Boris Johnson's government sticks to the line that there is no evidence of "successful" Russian interference in UK elections.

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Britain's Electoral Commission also weighed in on the controversy, saying the future government should formulate laws to protect the electoral process from foreign meddling. "We stand ready to work with the UK Government and security services, and we call on the next government and all political parties to ensure the law is changed in a new parliament to better protect our elections from foreign interference," an Electoral Commission spokeswoman said, according to the Evening Standard.

Meanwhile, former US presidential candidate and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton also criticised the UK government;s decision not to publish the report. "It's outrageous that your Government won't release a report about Russian influence inside the UK. Every person who votes in this country deserves to see that report before your election happens," Clinton told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme.