Jun 15, 2021

Cybersecurity boss: Ransomware Is Key Cyber Threat Facing UK

2 min
Professional criminals holding businesses to ransom is the key online threat facing the UK, says the chief of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre

Ransomware attacks are the key cyber threat facing the UK and the public and businesses must take it seriously, the chief of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned.

Lindy Cameron, CEO of National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of GCHQ, tells civil servants and defence industry representatives that it is vital the UK continues to build up its resilience to stop cyberattacks.

Speaking virtually at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Annual Security Lecture, Cameron warned of the “cumulative effect” of failing to properly deal with the rising threat. She also warned that for the vast majority of UK citizens and organisations, the primary key threat is not state actors but cyber criminals.

Cameron revealed the threat faced by think tanks, noting that it is “almost certain” that the primary cyber threat they face is from nation state espionage groups, and it is highly likely that they seek to gain strategic insights into government policy and commercially sensitive information. She highlighted the importance of building organisational cyber resilience which, in combination with government capabilities and law enforcement action, is the most effective way to counter threats in cyberspace.

“For most UK citizens and businesses, and indeed for the vast majority of critical national infrastructure providers and government service providers, the primary key threat is not state actors but cyber criminals, and in particular the threat of ransomware." said Cameron. 

"While government is uniquely able to disrupt and deter our adversaries, it is network defenders in industry, and the steps that all organisations and citizens are taking that are protecting the UK from attacks, day in, day out.

“The protection they provide is crucial to the digital transformation of the economy, and every organisation, large and small, has a role to play.”

Increase in ransomware attacks

Ransomware incidents have soared over the past two years globally as criminal gangs generate tens of millions of dollars by extorting money from companies. In May, a US oil network, Colonial Pipeline, was shut down after hackers obtained access, forcing the business to shut down for several days. The company paid $4.4m to the hackers, a group called Dark Side. 

Cameron said the market for ransomware had become increasingly “professional” as criminal hackers made money “from large profitable businesses who cannot afford to lose their data … or to suffer the down time”. 

She outlined how allies and adversaries alike are betting on cyber, and that the UK needs to continue setting the pace.

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