Cyber hackers pretend to be council leader in targeted attack

The fake email claimed to be from council leader Sam Chapman-Allen (pictured), echoing a successful

The fake email claimed to be from council leader Sam Chapman-Allen (pictured), echoing a successful hacking attempt from last year. Photo: Breckland Council - Credit: Archant

Cyber scammers targeted a district council with a hoax email con in which they pretended to be the authority’s leader.

Breckland Council’s computers were attacked last week after members were sent a fraudulent email claiming to be from leader Sam Chapman-Allen.

In a meeting of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Commission on Thursday, chairman Rhodri Oliver brought the issue as an item of urgent business.

“Given a very recent fake email sent to certain elected members in the name of the leader of the council,” said Mr Oliver, “and the cyber attack on Hackney last week, there is an urgent need to raise awareness with all members around cyber-security.”

“This is especially critical given the nature of our work during the pandemic and the fact that cyber-criminals appear to be using the current situation to target individuals and organisations.” he added.

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Members were given a presentation by the council’s ICT head, Jason Tillyard, who told them that in the last 14 days, Breckland’s existing cyber-security tools had blocked 98 emails containing virus data and 87 phishing emails.

Councillor Lynda Turner implored her colleagues to undergo the council’s existing cyber-training.

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“We’ve all suffered one way or another with phishing exercises.” said Ms Turner. “The email that went out last week was using the same false email address that was used last year when myself and several other people were hacked into. Always check where an email has come from before you do anything else.”

The commission voted unanimously in favour of recommending that further training be provided to all members.

Councillors were approached for further comment, but declined on grounds of confidentiality.

A Breckland Council spokesperson said: “A number of our councillors were recently sent a phishing email, which encouraged them to click on a fraudulent link.

“We’re confident that this attack was unsuccessful and no data was lost, but to ensure we remain secure going forward we have taken this opportunity to provide additional training to our staff and members.”

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