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Parliament's 'pitiful' GBP £6.5m IT budget increase alarms cyber chiefs
Tue, 2nd Apr 2024

With increasing cyber threats, especially from China, Parliament has raised its IT budget by a mere GBP £6.5 million in the last financial year. The budget boost was labelled as 'pitiful' by cyber chiefs who believe this minimal increase could endanger national security. Official data reveals Parliament's overall IT budget has risen to GBP £67,702,898, compared to GBP £61,154,627 from the previous year, a growth of just 11%.

These figures, acquired under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by the Parliament Street think tank, also show a significant rise in the number of IT specialists employed by Parliament. The headcount increased to 548 employees, up from 496 the previous year.

The budget increment and employee increase come in the wake of Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden officially notifying Parliament of the cyberattacks, pushing the country into a state of heightened alert.

Despite these measures, security experts have expressed concern over the relatively low investment in IT given the intensity of the cyber threats targeting MPs. Suid Adeyanju, CEO of RiverSafe, voicing his disapproval, said, "Our elected officials deserve the highest standards of cyber protection, and these spending figures seem pitiful when compared to the scale of the threat."

"The growing volume of sophisticated security attacks on MPs and peers requires immediate and urgent action, including military-grade encryption, the latest training and ransomware prevention strategies."

Achi Lewis, Area VP EMEA of Absolute Software, echoed Adeyanju's sentiments, stating the importance of increasing tech investment to guard against security risks. "Our MPs manage incredibly confidential data that, in the wrong hands, could pose a major threat to national security," Lewis revealed. The failure to adequately increase the IT budget in the face of such risks underscores the urgency and gravity of the situation.

Nevertheless, some industry insiders see the investment as a positive step. Derek Mackenzie, CEO of Investigo, praised the budget boost, citing the importance of having a tech team equipped with the latest AI and cyber skills.

"It is encouraging to see a substantial boost in IT staffing at a time when Parliament and many other organisations are facing a relentless cyber risk. Having a tech team equipped with the latest AI and cyber skills is critical for protecting organisations from outsider threats," Mackenzie said.

The modest increase in Parliament's IT budget amidst escalating cyber threats has sparked concern among security experts, who argue that the allocation may fall short of addressing the gravity of the situation. While the uptick in funding and IT specialist headcount is a step in the right direction, the consensus underscores the imperative for more substantial investment and comprehensive strategies to safeguard national security against evolving cyber risks.

As cyber threats continue to evolve in sophistication and frequency, a proactive and robust approach to cybersecurity remains paramount for protecting the integrity of democratic institutions and confidential data.