UK unprepared for ransomware attack amid lack of Government investment report

13/12/2023

UK unprepared for ransomware attack amid lack of Government investment – report

The UK is unprepared for a large-scale ransomware attack “at any moment” and could be brought to a standstill unless major changes to planning and preparation are made, a new report says.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy (JCNSS) said responsibility for tackling ransomware attacks should be taken off the Home Office – which the report accuses of giving political priority to other issues – and given to the Cabinet Office and overseen directly by the Deputy Prime Minister.

The report said former home secretary Suella Braverman “showed no interest” in the issue and instead focused on issues such as illegal migration and small boats.

Ransomware is a form of cyber attack where hackers breach a system and lock access to data and files, demanding payment in order to release the files or stop them being leaked – it has been used in a number of high-profile cyber attacks, including the Wannacry attack on the NHS in 2017.

In its report, the JNNCC says the UK’s regulatory frameworks are insufficient and outdated, and warns that large swathes of the UK’s critical national infrastructure remain vulnerable to ransomware because many still rely on legacy IT systems.

It says there has been a failure to sufficiently invest in safeguards to prevent a major crisis, despite government agencies such as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warning of the ongoing dangers of ransomware, particularly from hacking groups linked to Russia, China and North Korea in particular.

As part of its report, the committee has also called for a private briefing from the NCSC on preparations to protect the UK from cyber attack ahead of the upcoming general election, which is expected some time over the next year, citing concerns over possible interference in the democratic process.

Dame Margaret Beckett, chair of the JCNSS, said: “The UK has the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s most cyber-attacked nations.

“It is clear to the committee that the Government’s investment in and response to this threat are not equally world-beating, leaving us exposed to catastrophic costs and destabilising political interference.

“In the likely event of a massive, catastrophic ransomware attack, the failure to rise to meet this challenge will rightly be seen as an inexcusable strategic failure.

“Our main legislative framework is irresponsibly outdated and Government missed another chance to rectify this in the latest King’s Speech.

“The agencies tasked with detecting, responding to and recovering from ransomware attacks – and degrading further attack capabilities – are under-resourced and lacking key skills and capabilities.

“If the UK is to avoid being held hostage to fortune, it is vital that ransomware becomes a more pressing political priority, and that more resources are devoted to tackling this pernicious threat to the UK’s national security.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub



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