UK Acknowledges Attacks on High Value Assets; UK Official Predicts Major Cyber Attack in Next Few Years

This month UK officials confirmed what has been suspected for a while—Russians hacked UK telecom, energy and media companies during the past year, according to numerous news accounts.

Ciaran Martin, the chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), confirmed the hacking and said the NCSC has worked with international partners and the private sector to counter the threat.

“Russia is seeking to undermine the international system. That much is clear. The PM made the point on Monday night – international order as we know it is in danger of being eroded,” he said.  At the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the City of London’s Guildhall this month, UK Prime Minister Theresa May accused the Kremlin of being behind “a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption.”

Category One Cyber Incident

In September, NCSC’s technical director, Ian Levy, said he was “reasonably confident” that “sometime in the next few years we’re going to have out first ‘category one’ cyber incident.” Category one is where you need a national response.  He was speaking at a Symantec event in London and his remarks were carried by trade and UK-based press.

It’s possible that the incident won’t be the result of some sort of “an unprecedented, sophisticated attack that couldn’t possibly be defended against, but rather an error or a shortcut taken by someone who was just trying to do their job which gives attackers a way into an organization,” he said.

Currently cybersecurity tools aren’t built for every-day users.

“Cybersecurity professionals have spent the last 25 years saying people are the weakest link. That’s stupid!” he said, “They cannot possibly be the weakest link – they are the people that create the value at these organizations.

“What that tells me is that the systems we’ve built, as technical systems, are not built for people. Techies build systems for techies. They don’t build technical systems for normal people.”

Real-Life Prank

Levy also blogs under the NCSC banner.  A recent blog post dissects an attempt of a cyber prankster to ensnare him.

He and the prankster, James Linton, describe how the prank was formulated and how Levy was able to detect it. “Our joint aim is to lay bare the realities of email security and, given that a cyber attack looks exactly like a prank, use this unique opportunity to show an attack from both sides,”  Levy said.

Read the blog post here.

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Securing High Value Assets in Cyberspace is the theme of the 3rd Annual Billington CyberSecurity Summit on 3/21/18.  You can register here.