Cyber chiefs slam Parliament’s ‘pitiful’ £6.5m cyber budget increase amidst China threat

In its 26th report of Session 2021-22 the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has raised concerns about two instruments laid before Parliament by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) which make changes to building regulations and planning law.

Parliament has boosted its IT budget by only £6.5m in the last financial year as MPs and peers face a barrage of cyber attacks from China, according to official figures.

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by the Parliament Street think tank shows that Parliament’s overall IT budget jumped to £67,702,898 – up from £61,154,627 the previous year and an increase of only 11%. The figures also show a sharp increase in IT specialists employed by Parliament, with headcount rising to 548 staffers, up from 496 the previous year.

The news comes as the deputy prime minister, Oliver Dowden formally informed parliament of the attacks, putting the nation on red alert.

But some security experts criticised the lack of investment in IT at a time when MPs were being targeted by hackers.

Security expert Suid Adeyanju, CEO, RiverSafe said: “Our elected officials deserve the highest standards of cyber protection, and these spending figures seem pitiful when compared to the scale of the threat. The growing volume of sophisticated security attacks on MPs and peers requires immediate and urgent action, including military-grade encryption, the latest training and ransomware prevention strategies.”

Cyber guru Achi Lewis, Area VP EMEA of Absolute Software said: “Increasing tech investment is critical for protecting against security risks. Our MPs manage incredibly confidential data that in the wrong hands could pose a major threat to national security.”

However tech expert Derek Mackenzie, CEO, Investigo praised the increased investment, saying: “It’s encouraging to see a substantial boost in IT staffing at a time when Parliament and many other organisations are facing a relentless cyber risk. Having a tech team equipped with the latest AI and cyber skills is critical for protecting organisations from outsider threats.”