GCHQ called in to guard benefits system against hackers
SECURITY experts at GCHQ have been called in to prevent the Government's new benefits system being hacked into by fraudsters.
The listening post has been giving advice on safeguarding the new Universal Credit programme against cyber-attack, Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has told MPs. The system, to be introduced in 2013, will make extensive use of online technology to allow people to better manage their claims and make the process more efficient.
But some members of the Commons' Work and Pensions Committee have raised concerns about security. In the Commons Labour MP Glenda Jackson said: "How secure is this going to be? How is going online not an invitation to people to go online to carry out even greater fraud?"
Giving evidence to the committee, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith said of cyber-fraud: "We are fully aware of that. Across Government it's one of the risk areas we know about and that we are working with organisations as focussed on this as GCHQ to look at the systems and the way that we protect data, and where do we need to set the firewalls up to protect data and stop people coming in, that's the issue we are looking at."
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Mr Duncan-Smith said cyber security was one of the Government's top priorities.
He said: "The reality for us is going online is an absolute must. It's a must because the system itself cannot be made really efficient unless most of this stuff is done online."
But he added: "The cyber- fraud area is a very important area. It's within the top three of the areas we are focussing on to make sure we protect that process as people go through it.
"We are talking to everybody from the private sector right the way through to GCHQ about how and what is the best point at which you protect that information."
He said: "Most of the systems Government uses are legacy systems are historically not well protected. We would have had to do this anyway and doing it on the legacy systems would have been a nightmare but doing it on universal credit allows us to build a system around cyber-fraud rather than introduce cyber-fraud protection to a system already in existence."