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Major life-threatening cyber attack on UK “in little doubt”

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has published its second Annual Review, in turn revealing that the organisation has prevented Britain from falling victim to nearly 1,200 attacks in the past two years. The NCSC has also warned of the likelihood of a major life-threatening cyber attack on the UK in the near future.

The NCSC states that the UK is hit by ten serious cyber attacks every week. 70% of these attacks are “undertaken by groups of computer hackers directed, sponsored or tolerated by the Governments of [hostile] countries”.

Commenting on these figures, Mishcon de Reya’s cyber security lead Joe Hancock informed Risk Xtra: “1200 attacks may seem like a large number, but the reality is that this is the tip of the iceberg. The majority of these attacks on business, Government and third sector organisations go unreported and often undetected. Behind these high profile attacks there are the millions of online crimes that affect individuals every day.”

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Focusing on that last point, Hancock continued: “We routinely deal with the often unreported issues. More needs to be done to back law enforcement in supporting both victims and responders to better detect and recover from cyber episodes. A focus on critical infrastructure is welcomed by everyone, but it doesn’t help the millions of victims of cyber fraud. The recent Facebook breach shows the potential downsides of large-scale data collection and reliance on single points, provided by social media to access a wide variety of services across the Internet which can act as a gateway for attackers to further data and services.”

Further, Hancock observed: “Cyber security practices are not consistent globally and an attack against a weaker link in the supply or data chain can have unanticipated consequences for companies and individuals. More is needed to help protect everyday victims of these crimes, and especially so in the international arena. It’s difficult to see how mass cyber crime can be tackled without an international consensus and consequences for nations that turn a blind eye.”

Also, Hancock outlined: “Many of the cyber incidents we deal with have a financial component, often involving the traditional banking system and not only cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Driving cyber criminals out of the financial system will have an impact on cyber crime levels.”

Actions and behaviours

There are specific actions and behaviours that should be adopted now to aid readiness for inevitable cyber attacks. Steve Mulhearn, director of enhanced technologies for the UK and Ireland and DACH at Fortinet, has listed them as prevention, the harnessing of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and adaptive technology and better visibility across the network.

Prevention

Prevention is easier when all employees in the business, not just the IT Department, take responsibility for the security of the business. For example, breaches like the Bupa or Waymo hacks have raised the appreciation of the number of breaches that occur because employees are targeted. The Fortinet Global Enterprise Security Survey 2017 found that 67% of businesses say they’re planning IT security and awareness training for employees in 2018.

Harness AI and adaptive technology

Harnessing the power of AI to learn from breaches, as well analyse data and automate reactions to shut down breaches when they occur, are vital actions. Threats evolve and adapt over time as applications, technologies, configurations, controls and behaviours change, making security an arms race wherein a static solution simply will not do.

Better visibility across the network

A vital tool in this struggle is visibility. You cannot secure what you cannot see. This means control across the distributed network, including endpoints, the Internet of Things and the cloud. According to the Fortinet 2017 Survey, only a small cohort of respondents feel confident that they have full visibility and control of employee access.

*The National Cyber Security Centre’s Annual Review can be accessed online at https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/news/annual-review-2018

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