Labour still suffering fallout from November cyberattack, activists claim

Written by John Johnston on 18 February 2022 in News

Local campaigners report election preparations are being hampered

Credit: Evelyn Simak/CC BY-SA 2.0

Labour activists have accused the party of a "poor" response to a recent data breach which left a "significant quantity" of member's data inaccessible.

Labour confirmed details of the breach in November, saying the data affected included "information provided by its members, registered and affiliated supports, and other individuals who have provided their information".

Labour activists involved in organising the party's campaign for May's local elections have told PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome the breach is now causing chaos with their canvassing efforts, with local groups left reliant on outdated membership lists when carrying out selection interviews.

"The issue with the Labour membership database has been incredibly frustrating," one Labour member involved with selections in London said. 

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"It’s delayed selections and consequently meant candidates and councillors have not been able to start proper campaigning for pivotal May elections. The solution from HQ has come last minute and the communication throughout to local constituencies has been poor."

A number of local Labour groups in London say they are significantly behind schedule in selecting candidates for the council seats, with organisers saying the problems have been exacerbated by "poor" communication from the central party who they say have failed to provide up-to-date information on potential candidates.

Others have reported ongoing problems with membership payments, but a Labour source said this was not linked to the recent attack. Another Labour activist told PoliticsHome it was "deeply concerning" that the breach could be continuing to hamper their election campaigns. 

"[It is] fair to say that fighting internal fires is not where we wanted to be at this point," they said. "We have had a small number [of activists] facing problems with their membership payments, and despite the party claiming this is not linked, it is another hurdle for us to overcome during an already busy period. I have been in near-daily contact with [party HQ] and the response has been less than adequate. We still have no idea how extensive this problem is, and we are still operating off old data."

While the activist acknowledged that the party was not to blame for the data breach, they remained frustrated that its impact was still being felt by campaigners. 

"It's time they got a grip of the situation and make sure we have the resources we need to get out and do what we want to do, which is fighting for our communities," they said. 

The breach, which is under investigation by the National Crime Agency, came just months after Blackbaud, a third-party group which provided a customer management system for the party, was targeted by cybercriminals.

The company later confirmed it had paid a ransom to the attackers in exchange for a commitment that personal data harvested in the attack would be destroyed.

A Labour spokesperson said: "If Labour members encounter any administrative issues with their membership, they can contact our membership team who will work to help resolve them. Campaigning for the local elections is underway across the country with hundreds of Labour candidates already selected and many more due to be completed in the coming weeks."


About the author

John Johnston is a political reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @johnjohnstonmi.

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