ALMOST 100,000 people a day attempted to break into Wiltshire Council's network following last year's Novichok poisonings, with many attacks originating overseas, its chief executive has revealed.

Speaking at a special Defence Committee in Westminster, Alistair Cunningham said the attempted "penetrations" of the authority's systems peaked at ten times what the council usually dealt with on a daily basis.

He also said that the authority was subjected to tens of thousands of attacks on its firewall, which also peaked at around 90,000 a day – a twenty-fold increase.

Salisbury Journal:

"Because of the visibility of what was happening in Salisbury, we saw significant growth in interest in trying to penetrate our internet and email accounts," Mr Cunningham told the panel.

"We saw our 'denial of service' attacks going up, with people trying to get in [to the system] by using passwords increase tenfold, peaking at 90,000 a day.

"That meant of course staff, like myself, were coming out of meetings in which we hadn't used internet and found we then couldn't log in [to our system accounts] because someone had tried to do so three times and failed."

The attacks came after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury in March last year along with Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.

A further two were poisoned in July, with local Dawn Sturgess, pictured below, killed by the chemical.

Russian authorities have always rebuffed allegations it was behind the incident.

Salisbury Journal:

Mr Cunningham added: "What we're saying is that if you have a disaster and you become visible, you will have people seeking to penetrate your system.

"In our case a lot of these were foreign, trying to get in, and we assumed there was a link between the incident itself and people trying to bring down our system."

Also at the meeting was Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills of Wiltshire Police.

He explained that the force's IT systems also came under attack because they use the computer resources of Wiltshire Council.

Salisbury Journal:

DCC Mills also revealed that just a year before the event, an exercise was carried out to learn how to deal with a plane crashing into Porton Down, and harmful substances being released into the surrounding areas if facilities were destroyed.

He said: "Although we hadn't prepared for Novichok specifically, very much the structure and the principals [of what we had to look at] were the same in terms of what you put into place.

"The key thing then is to bring the respective partners to the table so they can bring their expertise and then be able to respond to what is in front of us."