GCHQ holds emergency meetings with politicians over Russian cyber threat to elections

Chloe Chaplain
GCHQ: Spies are warning parties about the risks of poor network security

Spies at GCHQ have called emergency meetings with British politicians warning them of the risk of Russian hackers disrupting future general elections.

Security bosses are reportedly prioritising the risk foreign hackers pose to democracy following concerns they could leak voter data or internal emails.

Seminars will be held to educate politicians on how to tighten their cyber-security and protect themselves against attacks.

The intervention comes after Kremlin spies were accused of carrying out cyber-attacks to tamper with US and German elections.

Accusations: There have been suspicions that hackers were involved in Trump's election victory (Jeff Kowalsky/ Getty Images)

They were accused of leaking 20,000 emails from the US Democratic Party in the 2016 election and infiltrating the German parliament’s IT network in 2015.

According to The Sunday Times, Ciaran Martin, chief executive of GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has written to leaders of all the main political parties to offer advice on how to withstand attacks.

In the letter, he said: "You will be aware of the coverage of events in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system.

Warning: NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin has written to the leaders of political parties (Getty)

"This is not just about the network security of political parties' own systems. Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals' email accounts."

In February, Mr Martin warned that 188 high-level cyber-attacks, "many of which threatened national security", had struck Britain in the previous three months.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, a former defence and foreign secretary, also said the NCSC had been blocking "potential attacks" on Government departments and the public at a rate of around 200 hacks a day.

US intelligence services have accused the Kremlin of breaching Democratic National Committee computers in an attempt to interfere with the presidential election won by Donald Trump.

Germany's domestic intelligence agency warned in December that Russia was trying to influence the upcoming federal elections with "increasingly aggressive cyber espionage".

Political party databases store voter information such as family details and policy interests which is used to recruit supporters.