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November 4, 2016

Remember Remember the 5th of November – Virtual Gunpowder, Cyber Treason and Bots!

Would a modern-day Guy Fawkes choose a cyber attack over a barrel of gunpowder?

By Ellie Burns

Disillusioned with the treatment of Catholics, 13 rebels planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening in 1605. The target – Protestant King James I, survived when Guy Fawkes was betrayed by one of his co-conspirators. The Gunpowder Plot, as it’s become known, was foiled and the gunpowder discovered before the fuse could be lit.

If Guy Fawkes were alive today, would he risk being caught in the bowels of Parliament with the barrels of powder or would he take a more ‘hands free’ approach?


Virtual powder kegs

We’ve already witnessed ‘virtual fireworks’ launched at the monarchy, government and many other public figures.

One recent example is the hacking of Pippa Middleton’s iCloud account. The relatively simple, yet deeply intrusive, attack resulted in private images of Kate Middleton, Prince George and Princess Charlotte offered for sale. Unfortunately, Pippa is just the latest name to be added to a long list of celebrities and public officials who’ve had their images and personal information hacked. Of course, family photos of the Royal children, while a gross invasion of privacy, shouldn’t be enough to overthrow the Royal family. However, not all electronic abuse is benign.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the Royals have been in the hackers’ cross hairs. In March last year, Prince William and Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and even Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice were warned to close their social media accounts and change passwords on the recommendation of Intelligence officers at GCHQ. It was suggested that cash rewards were being offered to any successful hackers who intercepted the Royals emails and private communications. While it’s not evident if any were successful, it’s unlikely to have been an isolated event.

london fireworks

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Looking at public officials, the current US election is another example where cyber security is playing an active part. Last month, The US government formally accused Russia of hacking the Democratic party’s computer networks claiming that Moscow was attempting to “interfere” with the US presidential election. That’s before we add the current Hillary Clinton email-shaped smoking gun to the mix.

What all these attacks have in common is that the criminals didn’t have to come in physical contact with their victims. All were perpetrated remotely and virtually.


What’s lurking in the virtual sewers? Cyber conspirators of a virtual Gunpowder Plot? Continue reading to find out.

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