Parliament has recommended a “monitoring unit” to help ensure the integrity of UK Democracy. The Commons Public Administration committee, says as much in a new report, in an effort to safeguard the UK's voting systems against “election hacking” or interference by foreign powers.
The Committee's recommendation is primarily cautionary, the Committee's chair, Bernard Jenkin MP, told UK newspaper The Independent: “We recommend the Government set up a monitoring unit, to ensure the kind of interference that has been claimed more widely in other countries, is not going to happen in our country. That's important for public confidence in our democratic process.”
The Committee even offered the possibility that the 2016 referendum, which resulted in the UK's monumental decision to leave the EU, was interfered.
Jenkin also told The Independent that although there is no direct evidence, “we do not rule out the possibility that there was foreign interference in the EU referendum.”
The specific case pointed to was a supposed DDoS attack that led to the downing of the Register to Vote website on 7 June 2016, the eve of the EU referendum.
The report notes, “we do not rule out the possibility that there was foreign interference in the EU referendum caused by a DDOS using botnets, though we do not believe that any such interference had any material effect on the outcome of the EU referendum.”
The result was a historic one. Membership of the EU was an issue that had split the country for the better part of a century and had sparked political turmoil in even the highest offices. When the british public made the decision to leave the supranational political body, it set in course events that many believe will profoundly alter the course of not just the UK, but Europe itself.
It then seems likely that foreign powers might have been interested in its outcome. It is now generally accepted among the US political establishment that the Russian government attempted to influence the 2016 US election, by hacking into the Democratic Party's governing body and releasing its private information. That breach, US intelligence agencies maintain, was meant to deliver Donald Trump, an avowed Putin fan, the US Presidency.
The UK parliament are certainly not the first to have mulled the possibility that a foreign power has meddled in politically critical moments. A variety of world leaders voiced concerns about foreign meddling with their political systems as well as confidence that such attempts had been tried, if not achieved.German spy chief Hans Georg-Maassen warned of Russian interference late last year ahead of the country's 2017 election. He specifically highlighted the use of social media to influence the opinions of the electorate. Similar comments were also made by French and Dutch officials ahead of elections in their countries.