Update: The Government has denied the outage was due to a cyber attack. A spokesman said a “technical error” was to blame.
The UK Government’s website was knocked out of service on Wednesday afternoon, sparking suspicions of a cyber attack.
Gov.uk, the public-facing portal for all central government departments and services, was inaccessible from around 3.30pm UK time.
The service used Twitter to announce the outage shortly afterward:
GOV.UK is intermittently unavailable for some users. We hope to be fully back online soon.
— GOV UK (@GOVUK) October 26, 2016
Although the message described the outage as “intermittent” and implied that some people were unaffected, all signs thus far suggest the entire system went down.
The website came back online around twenty five minutes later. Sources in the cyber security industry tell Heat Street “either they have idiot staff, or it’s an attack”.
gov.uk seems to be having issues. pic.twitter.com/Yb3fm1dQ01
— John Lunny (@johnlunny) October 26, 2016
It appears that the whole Gov.uk web system is down, every government department. Cyber attack?
— Joe Watts (@JoeWatts_) October 26, 2016
gov.uk is down – the whole thing, as far as I can tell (so all online government services) pic.twitter.com/OFgSyRgl3X
— Jon Stone (@joncstone) October 26, 2016
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which runs the Government’s digital operations, had only just become aware of the outage when Heat Street called for comment.
The attack follows a large-scale distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the East Coast of the United States.
It also comes amid heightened rhetoric about cyber warfare from Russia and the United States, which coincides with closing phase of the presidential election.