Ministry Of Justice Network Chaos ‘Not Caused By Cyber-Attack’

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Justice minister blames unknown partner data centre issues for network disruption affecting courts and other MoJ services over the past week

An ongoing major IT network outage affecting the Ministry of Justice over the past week was due to an unidentified infrastructure failure in the data centre operated by suppliers Atos and and Microsoft, and not to a cyber-attack, the government has said.

In response to a question in Parliament, justice minister Lucy Frazer said the issue was “caused by an infrastructure failure in the MoJ’s suppliers data centre”.

In a statement, the government said the cause of the problem remained unknown and that it was working with Microsoft and Atos to identify it, as well as on restoring network access.

The issue affected devices connecting to the main MoJ network, which is also used by the courts system, other MoJ agencies and a number of arms-length bodies.

Not a cyber-attack

Organisations affected include the Crown Prosecution Service and the Criminal Justice Secure Email system (CJSM), which left court users unable to exchange secure messages.

The XHIBIT system, which records hearing information, was also reportedly affected.

The government said the issue was unrelated to a separate incident that affected about 12.5 percent of CJSM users last week.

It said on Wednesday that network access had been restored to “a large number” of  MoJ sites, with email and internet access operating across the estate via Wi-Fi and on mobile devices.  Frazer said 180 sites had been reconnected.

Some 75 percent of court staff now have working IT systems and hearings are continuing through the system, the government said.

The government said the problems were unrelated to a cyber-attack or to an ongoing £1 billion modernisation of the courts system, affecting only the existing MoJ network.

Digital reforms

The ambitious Common Platform IT system is still in a testing phase and was not affected, nor were the prison service or reformed online services such as divorce and probate.

“Teams will continue to work around the clock to resolve the remaining issues. We will continue to update this news story with progress made,” the government stated.

Frazer told Parliament the government was disappointed in the inability of Atos and Microsoft to restore services, and said permanent secretary Richard Heaton was to meet with the chief executive of Atos on Wednesday.

She said the government would look into whether penalty clauses in suppliers’ contracts would allow the government to claim compensation for the disruption.

Frazer told Parliament the problems showed the need for the £1bn digital reforms to the courts system, which would replace ageing legacy systems.

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