How a six-year-old beat the House of Commons
A BBC South Inside Out investigation has revealed how an alarming loophole in security allowed a six-year-old to hack into the highly sensitive computer system at the House of Commons.
Brianagh, a schoolgirl from Winchester, knows very little about computers. However, she was able to breach security at one of the most heavily guarded buildings in Britain by using a high-tech spying device called a keylogger.
Keyloggers can be bought legally on the internet for as little as £50. They're designed to be hidden on a computer without the owner's knowledge.
Once planted, keyloggers secretly record every single scrap of information that is typed using the computer's keyboard – and that includes passwords, banking details and credit card numbers.
Top fraud expert, Neil Munroe from Equifax, admits that keyloggers are fast becoming the weapon of choice for a new breed of high-tech gangsters.
"There's been a 5,000% increase in fraudsters getting information off you in this type of way. It's certainly the area they're focussing on."
Getting into the House of Commons now involves X-rays, body searches and a gauntlet of policemen with guns. But sneaking Brianagh's keylogger past all this security was child's play.
Computer security consultant Tobias Scmitt believes the House of Commons may need to rethink some of its security procedures.
"They're concentrating too much on guns and bombs and not thinking about small, James Bond-type, spying devices that are now accessible to everyone," he says.
Now that Brianagh had managed to smuggle her keylogger into the House of Commons, Anne Milton, Guilford's Conservative MP, agreed to help Inside Out put the secure House of Commons computer system to the test.
Anne Milton agreed to leave her computer unattended for just 60 seconds. But it took six-year-old Brianagh just 15 seconds to sneak into Anne's room and hide the keylogger on her machine.
And, although Brianagh had effectively attached a bug to a sensitive computer, not a single alarm was raised.
Anne Milton told Inside Out: "It really surprises me. It's the speed, the size of the device and the ease with which it was attached to my computer."
What's more, Anne Milton is happy to admit that she would never have noticed anything suspicious attached to her computer.
But with Brianagh's keylogger in place, everything that Anne Milton would have typed for the next six months would have been secretly recorded.
And, at any point in the future, it would only take seconds to retrieve the keylogger and escape with all of the confidential information on Anne's computer.
Even more worryingly, the keylogger could record the top secret password that is meant to protect every MP's computer. And, armed with that password, a real-life criminal could simply log onto Anne Milton's computer whenever they wanted.
After discovering how easily Brianagh's keylogger could steal sensitive information, Anne Milton told the programme: "My first duty is to my constituents and it's frightening to discover that someone can so easily spy on what you're doing without you knowing about it."
The House of Commons refused to make any comment to Inside Out on how a six-year-old girl was so easily able to break into their computer system.
But Kelvyn Taylor, Deputy Editor of Personal Computer World magazine, had this comment to make: "Ever since Guy Fawkes, we have this idea that the House of Commons is locked up solid. But apparently it's not!"
See the full story on this week's Inside Out, Friday 23 March, 7.30pm, BBC One South.