MPs working from home sent cyber advice mouse mats to remind them of potential password problems

Written by Sam Trendall on 18 June 2020 in News
News

Items designed to remind members to be on the lookout for phishing attacks and use a variety of passwords across different accounts

Credit: PA

MPs working from home during the coronavirus crisis were sent mouse mats inscribed with security advice to remind them of the dangers of cyberthreats and what steps can be taken to minimise risk – including using different passwords and keeping an eye out for phishing attacks.

Parliamentarians have attracted criticism in the past for seemingly lax security practices; in late 2017 several MPs publicly revealed they shared their passwords freely with staff – a practice which was understood to be widespread.

These admissions resulted in enquiries being made by the Information Commissioner’s Office – which then wrote to all MPs to remind them of their data-protection responsibilities.


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One of the internal measures taken by the Parliamentary Digital Service in light of the incident was to create and distribute promotional items – including mouse mats, as well as mugs and fortune cookies – bearing simple security messages.

In February, PDS ordered the production of a batch of about 2,000 mats for use by staff across the parliamentary estate. The items were inscribed with cyber advice, including that suspected phishing attacks should be reported, and that the same password should not be used across multiple accounts.

The mats were briefly distributed via temporary stalls set up across parliament but, once staff and MPs began working from home en masse, PDS decided to begin posting them out to those considered to be most at risk while working remotely. 

This cohort included MPs, who sent the mouse mats along with a leaflet providing information on the most common cyberthreats and how they can be mitigated against.

The PDS is now planning how best to use the leftover mouse mats, and may distribute them to peers and staff working on select committees, who are also understood to be considered as being at risk.
The items were produced at a cost of £3,289, with postage costs covered by existing arrangements.

Mouse mats produced by PDS in the past have included messages such as “treat your password like you treat your toothbrush – never share it”.

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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