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Cyber report: Wannacry ‘biggest test’

It’s not possible to stop every cyber-attack; hence the official UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) seeks to provide a ‘world-class incident management service’, it says. The NCSC has prevented thousands of attacks and managed hundreds of incidents, it says in its first annual report. The centre reports that it has worked with more than 50 countries across five continents, including signing NATO’s cyber Memorandum of Understanding.

Cyber attack cases it touches on include on UK parliament in June; and the global outbreak of Wannacry ransomware in May, that hit NHS trusts in the UK, besides 100 other countries; a total of 230,000 computers were infected worldwide. For the UK, it meant diverted ambulances, and cancelled operations. The NCSC described Wannacry as its ‘biggest test of the year’. It despatched staff to ‘victim sites’ such as Barts Hospital Trust in central London. The report sets out the NCSC’s response, as a typically prompt and varied one to such a serious attack on UK critical national infrastructure (CNI) such as hospitals:

– record numbers of IT people shared ideas on a ‘collaborative and secure space’;
– the NCSC managed the media side, issuing a press release within 90 minutes of the alert on Friday, May 12;
– over the weekend, guidance on the NCSC website was updated;
– as a sign of how cyber-crime is taken ever more seriously by society generally, Ciaran Martin, CEO of the NCSC was interviewed on TV evening news;
– CISP (Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership) members such as banks and other big businesses (besides charities and academia) collaborated, on advice besides debunking falsehoods and rumours; and
– the NCSC led a UK Government ‘lessons learned’ review which pointed to a need for more resilient NHS computer networks, as featured in the June and September 2017 print issues of Professional Security.

Ciaran Martin said: “Cyber security is crucial to our national security and to our prosperity. We’re incredibly proud of what we have achieved in our first year at the National Cyber Security Centre, bringing together some of the best cyber security brains in the country in a single place. But the threat remains very real and growing – further attacks will happen and there is much more for us to do to make the UK the safest place in the world to live and do business online. We look forward to working with our partners at home and abroad in the year ahead in pursuit of that vital goal.”

While operational since October 2016, the NCSC’s new Victoria, central London headquarters was opened by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in February 2017. It’s part of GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters). See the report at www.ncsc.gov.uk. The NCSC work as set out in the report includes such cyber risks as fake emails that purport to be from UK Government departments such as the taxman, with the aim of doing fraud and identity theft. The NCSC also does work for the UK’s armed forces; has worked with the Ministry of Defence and industry on protecting the defence supply chain from cyber threats; and briefed companies in that supply chain; and likewise worked with UK central Government on an IT network for those working at the Government document security classification level of ‘secret’.

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Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and Fellow at IT security software firm McAfee, said: “The National Cyber Security Centre’s annual review reveals an escalation in cyber attacks – and this should be taken seriously. Cyberattacks are the future of crime. Criminals are coming up with varied, sophisticated attacks to weaponise data and systems – and it takes inspired, innovative cybersecurity professionals to proactively find emerging threats and beat criminals at their own game.

“It’s a fast paced industry so ensuring the UK retains its place as a key – and secure – market for digital business requires both close collaboration between law enforcement and the cyber security sector and an ongoing focus on cyber at a national level. Just protecting data and correcting systems after an attack is no longer sufficient. Businesses must be prepared to proactively seek out and detect any threats to keep cyber criminals at bay and data secure.”

And Rodney Joffe, SVP and Fellow at Neustar, said: “As this latest data has revealed, the sheer volume, complexity and severity of cyber-attacks is constantly on the rise. From ransomware to DDoS and web application attacks, over half of the attacks reported to the NCSC posed a ‘significant threat’, it is critical that organisations are working to secure their infrastructure and valuable data.

“To achieve this requires a clear understanding of what data needs safeguarding, and the levels of security that need to be put in place. Next, organisations need to ensure the appropriate controls are in place for threat vulnerability and patch management, while making certain that important data is identified and encrypted. Realistically, this can only be achieved by taking a holistic view of the threat landscape, rather than tackling each of these in isolation. By developing this more cohesive security strategy, organisations can hone in on their more vulnerable data, processes and models, protecting their critical information from getting into the wrong hands.”


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