Over 20,000 malicious emails are targeted at UK government networks every month, chancellor George Osborne revealed on Monday in a speech at the Google Zeitgeist conference.
Osbourne detailed the government's plans to ride the open data revolution to improve services, make government more efficient and cut regulation, and warned that this "age of digitised services" creates significant challenges.
Pointing to the recent large scale hacking attack on Sony's network, which may have exposed the personal details of up to 100 million customers, the chancellor claimed that the government is targeted by cyber criminals just as frequently as the private sector.
"During 2010, hostile intelligence agencies made hundreds of serious and pre-planned attempts to break into the Treasury's computer system. In fact, it averaged out as more than one attempt per day," he said.
"This makes the Treasury one of the most targeted departments across Whitehall."
Osborne explained how criminals sent an email last year imitating a recently sent G20-related email to the same distribution list, but swapping the normal file attachment for a malicious file.
"To the recipient it would have simply looked like the attachment had been sent twice. Fortunately, our systems identified this attack and stopped it," he said.
Osborne touted the £650m pledged to the new National Cyber Security Programme as proof that the government is alert and responding appropriately to these threats.
"We are not taking this challenge lying down," he told attendees. "We are determined to get the security question right, so that we can maximise the opportunities that the internet age presents."
However, the government's cyber security strategy received a blow last week when security minister Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones resigned from the Cabinet.
Neville-Jones was a closely trusted advisor to prime minister David Cameron, and drew up the original plans for the National Security Council and was instrumental in promoting cyber security as a top priority.
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