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Voting in Tory leadership contest delayed after GCHQ hacking warning

Voting in Tory leadership contest delayed after GCHQ hacking warning
À propos de 160,000 members of the Conservative Party will also no longer be allowed to change their votes

Voting in the Parti conservateur leadership race will be delayed by more than a week after GCHQ warned that cyberhackers could meddle with members’ ballots.

le National Cyber Security Centre – the listening post of GCHQ, one of the government’s three intelligence organisations alongside MI5 and MI6 – said there are vulnerabilities in the voting system, Le télégraphe signalé.

Its general warning did not make specific mention of hostile countries such as China, Iran or Russia – the latter of which the US has accused of interfering in its 2020 presidential contest.

But the change of plan means postal ballots will arrive at the addresses of about 160,000 Tory members as late as 11 août, after they were previously meant to be sent out from Monday.

This means that members will have less than a month to return their votes by Friday 2 September for counting before Boris Johnson’s successor – foreign secretary Liz Truss or former chancellor Rishi Sunak – will be announced on Monday 5 septembre.

The GCHQ warning also means that the Conservative Party has had to scrap plans that would have allowed its members to change their votes in the leadership contest.

Initialement, members would have each been issued a postal ballot with a unique code. They would have been able to vote via post or – for the first time in a Tory leadership contest – online.

Members would also have been allowed to change their vote later by post or online, but this has now been scrapped due to concerns that hackers could interfere.

À présent, as part of the change of plan, the unique codes will be deactivated once they are used for the first time with no option to change a vote before the contest comes to an end.

The Tory members were notified of the change on Tuesday night. One part of the message, seen by the Télégraphe, reads: “Your ballot is now on the way – but it will arrive with you a little later than we originally said.

“Please do not worry. This is because we have taken some time to add some additional security to our ballot process, which has delayed us slightly.”

A National Cyber Security Centre spokesperson told the newspaper: “Defending UK democratic and electoral processes is a priority for the NCSC, and we work closely with all parliamentary political parties, local authorities and MPs to provide cybersecurity guidance and support.

“As you would expect from the UK’s national cybersecurity authority, we provided advice to the Conservative Party on security considerations for online leadership voting.”

New polls show that Mr Sunak is trailing behind Ms Truss. YouGov conducted a survey of 1,043 Tory members, in which they were asked who they will vote for in the leadership contest.

Ms Truss received the backing of 60 per cent of those polled between 29 juillet et 2 août, tandis que 26 per cent of them said they would choose Mr Sunak. Eleven per cent said “don’t know” and 3 per cent said they wouldn’t vote.

A fortnight ago, the same survey was carried out in which Ms Truss received 49 per cent of the members’ backing while Mr Sunak received 31 pour cent. Puis, 15 per cent said “don’t know” and 6 per cent said they wouldn’t vote.