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Police website shut amid hacker fears

Strathclyde Police was forced to close down its website last night amid fears it had come under attack from Chinese hackers.

The site went down soon after 6pm as the force’s IT team assessed the threat, which was detected after a number of weblinks appeared that diverted users to a Chinese site with a history of distributing viruses.

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The force said its computer experts were examining an anomaly, but ruled out a virus as its cause. It added that anyone who logged into the system yesterday would not have put their computer at risk.

Spokesman Robert Shorthouse said: “This matter is currently being investigated by our IT engineers. While this is ongoing, we have, as a precaution, taken the website offline. No other IT systems have been affected.”

Internet users attempting to access the site encountered a black-and-white screen with a message that the website was “down for maintenance”.

The purpose of the attack, in which hackers inserted a malicious code on to the home page and several other key pages, remains unknown.

People using the Internet Explorer browser were silently pointed towards robint.us, a Chinese-registered site.

It was identified by web security experts Symantec as posing a high severity risk to users after it was behind a previous virus attack that specifically targeted older versions of Internet Explorer.

Grant Gibson, digital innovation manager at the Herald and Times Group, which publishes The Herald, warned that the police should not be complacent about the potential threat.

He said: “Regardless of whether the site is active or dormant at this precise moment, the hackers have a window into the Strathclyde Police page from a location outwith their control. This 'window' is registered to an individual in China, which could be reactivated at any time.”

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