GCHQ warns public ‘absolute protection not possible’ as it briefs power and transport firms on cyber attacks
Britain’s spy agencies cannot offer “absolute protection” against Russian cyber attacks and are instead focused on preventing assaults that would “most impact on our way of life”, in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning is warning.
Ciaran Martin, the head of the agency’s cyber defence unit, says it is a matter of “when, not if” Britain faces a “serious cyber attack”.
He added that its focus was now on building “resilience” in “the systems we care about the most”, believed to be Britain’s power and water supplies, internet and transport networks, and health service.
Al Sahawat Times understands that senior representatives of utility, transport and internet firms and the NHS have attended intelligence briefings at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on the specific methods, known as “attack vectors” allegedly being used by Russia to target Britain’s critical national infrastructure.
Separately, the NCSC is understood to have written to the Government setting out urgent actions that departments and individual officials should take to protect Whitehall from cyber assaults.
Martin, the NCSC’s chief executive, confirmed GCHQ was on “heightened alert” for “follow-up activity” following the Salisbury attack – an explicit link the agency fell short of making when it issued an unprecedented joint warning with the FBI last week about potential cyber attacks by the Russian Government.
“Turning off the lights and the power supply by cyber attack is harder than Hollywood films sometimes make out,” he writes.
“But we’ve seen enough malicious cyber attacks across the world, including against UK health services by a North Korean group last year, to know how services can be disrupted.
“Absolute protection is not possible; it’s about having more resilience in the systems we care about the most, those where loss of service would have the most impact on our way of life. We have said that it is a matter of when, not if, the UK faces a serious cyber attack. So last week we presented detailed plans to Government departments about the priority areas where the NCSC will work with them, industry and law enforcement to improve the cyber resilience of the most important systems.”
Al Sahawat Times understands that, in addition to setting out the “priority areas” it will focus on protection, the NCSC provided the Government with fresh advice on preventing attacks, based on the latest intelligence about attempted intrusions by hackers from multiple groups and nations.
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