British lawmakers hit by cyber security attack

LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) - Britain's parliament was hit by a cyberattack on Saturday in which hackers tried to access email accounts, politicians and officials said, just over a month after a ransomware attack crippled parts of the country's health service.

Chris Rennard, a member of the Liberal Democrat party in the upper House of Lords, was the first to draw attention to the problem, using Twitter to announce: "Cyber security attack on Westminster, Parliamentary emails may not work remotely, Text urgent messages."

RELATED: Cybersecurity tips

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KEEP YOUR PASSWORDS STRONG AND VARIED

If your password is easy for you to remember, then it'll be easy for hackers, too. Try using symbols, numbers and capital letters throughout your passcode. Also, experts suggest you use different passwords for different accounts. 

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EMPLOY TWO-STEP AUTHENTICATION

Add another layer of security by having another code sent to your phone number before you can sign in.

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BEWARE OF PUBLIC WIFI

If you're traveling, verify with the coffee shop or hotel that the wi-fi name is valid -- many cybercriminals set up networks with similar names to popular spots. You can also set up a private VPN that encrypts all of your data that passes through the network.

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COVER YOUR TRACKS

Wipe your hard drive clean before giving away, recycling or throwing out your old laptop or computer.

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DON'T LEAVE YOUR DEVICES UNATTENDED

That's just asking for trouble!

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BEWARE OF MYSTERIOUS URLS IN EMAILS

Don't ever click on URL from an unidentified or sketchy looking email. 

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COVER YOUR WEBCAM 

FBI director James Comey suggests placing a piece of tape over your webcam when you're not using it. If that doesn't convince you, note that Mark Zuckerberg is known to do the same.

KEEP YOUR SOFTWARE UP TO DATE

Hackers target vulnerabilities in software, which are often resolved in software updates, so stop hitting the "ignore" or "remind me later" button!

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A spokeswoman for the House of Commons confirmed that unauthorized attempts had been made to access parliamentary user accounts and that systems were in place to protect member and staff accounts.

"We are continuing to investigate this incident and take further measures to secure the computer network, liaising with the National Cyber Security Centre," the spokeswoman said.

The BBC said lawmakers were unable to access their emails away from Westminster due to the steps being taken to manage the issue.

Britain's National Health Service was hit by a massive ransomware worm in May which crippled the computer system and forced some hospitals to turn away patients and divert ambulances.

RELATED: A look inside the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center

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National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center - Arlington, Virginia - cybercrime
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 11: Admiral Michael Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, speaks at George Washington University May 11, 2015 in Washington, DC. The George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security held a discussion on the state of cybersecurity threats to the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 02: National Security Agency Director and U.S. Cyber command Commander Admiral Michael Rogers takes questions during his keynote address to the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's sixth annual Cybersecurity Technology Summit at the Capitol Hilton April 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. Taking questions submitted via email from an iPad, Rogers talked about intergovernmental information sharing, private-public partnerships and the new focus on recruitment among people as young as high school students. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 11: Admiral Michael Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, speaks at George Washington University May 11, 2015 in Washington, DC. The George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security held a discussion on the state of cybersecurity threats to the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) on January 13, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. President Obama discussed efforts to improve the government's ability to collaborate with industry to combat cyber threats. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) on January 13, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. President Obama discussed efforts to improve the government's ability to collaborate with industry to combat cyber threats. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks about cybersecurity alongside Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (L) as he visits the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, January 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) on January 13, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. President Obama discussed efforts to improve the government's ability to collaborate with industry to combat cyber threats. He is joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Director of control Systems Security Sean Paul McGurk speaks at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) as they prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - OCTOBER 30: Staff members attend an event where Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano delivered remarks at the opening ceremony of the new U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team/National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center facility October 30, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. The center is designed to help protect the technical infrastructure of the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Director of Control Systems Security Sean Paul McGurk speaks at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) as they prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - OCTOBER 30: Staff members attend an event where Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano delivered remarks at the opening ceremony of the new U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team/National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center facility October 30, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. The center is designed to help protect the technical infrastructure of the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-GOVERNMENT-COMPUTER-SECURITY-INTERNET BY CHRIS LEFKOW Analyists at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) prepare for Cyber Storm III during a media session at their headquarters in Arlington, VA, September 24, 2010. Cyber Storm III is NCCIC's capstone national-level cybersecurity exercise. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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Liam Fox, the minister for international trade, said the attack was not a surprise and should act as a warning to Britons.

"We've seen reports in the last few days of even cabinet ministers' passwords being for sale online," he told broadcasters.

"We know that our public services are attacked so it's not at all surprising that there should be an attempt to hack into parliamentary emails."

Part of the GCHQ spy agency, the National Cyber Security center was set up in October last year to tackle what the government believes is one of the biggest threats to British security. (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Ros Russell)

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