UK’s Royal Mail warns it is “temporarily unable to despatch items to overseas destinations”, after confirmation of ‘cyber incident’
The Royal Mail is once again experiencing computer-related difficulties, after confirming a “cyber incident.”
The British post office tweeted it was experiencing disruption to its “international export services and are temporarily unable to despatch items to overseas destinations.”
It strongly advise customers to hold any export items while it seeks to resolve the issue, it said.
It comes after the Royal Mail apologised in early January for a disruption to its online services over the holiday period.
The Royal Mail app and website had been unavailable for more than four hours on Wednesday, 28 December, the first day of regular post after strikes and bank holidays over the Christmas period.
And that has not been the only incident of late.
Last November Royal Mail acknowledged a data breach after a problem with one of its websites.
The problem resulted in a “limited number” of customers being able to see information about other customer’s orders.
Fast forward in mid January, the Royal Mail told the BBC it has asked people to stop sending mail abroad due to a “cyber incident”.
While it is temporarily unable to send letters and parcels overseas, there also also minor delays to post coming into the UK.
That said, domestic deliveries are reportedly unaffected.
Royal Mail apologised and told the BBC its teams were “working around the clock to resolve this disruption”. It said it would update customers when it had more information.
The company is calling it a “cyber-incident” rather than a cyber attack because it does not know what has caused the problem, the BBC has been told.
Royal Mail reportedly said that its computerised systems for sending letters and parcels abroad had been “severely disrupted.”
“We immediately launched an investigation into the [cyber] incident and we are working with external experts,” it added.
It seems the impacted back office system is used by Royal Mail to prepare mail for despatch abroad, and to track and trace overseas items. It is in use at six sites, including Royal Mail’s huge Heathrow distribution centre in Slough.
Meanwhile the National Cyber Security Centre is investigating the incident, alongside the National Crime Agency, which strongly suggests some form of cyber crime or cyber attack has taken place.
This could not come at a worse time for the former state-owned postal service.
In recent months Royal Mail services have been hit by industrial action, and it is locked in a dispute with postal staff over modernisation plans and pay.
The post office has been steadily losing market share to rivals, and it wants to make changes including greater digitisation and automation.
And hours before the cyber incident was confirmed, the Communication Workers’ Union, which represents about 115,000 postal workers, confirmed plans for a fresh ballot on strike action, with results to be declared on 16 February.
There is concern at the level of attacks against British institutions.
The Guardian for example reported before Christmas that it had been hit by a ransomware attack, with the personal data of UK staff members accessed.