UK facing ‘moment of reckoning’ over rise in cyber security threats
Speaking at the opening of the CyberUK virtual conference, GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming warned that the UK’s prosperity and security are at stake because “significant technology leadership” is “moving east”. He stressed the country’s cyber-security industry must act and keep evolving its defences to ensure UK and global safety to counter this.
“Without action, it is increasingly apparent that the key technologies on which we rely for prosperity and security won’t be shaped and controlled by the West,” he said. “We can see significant technology leadership is moving east, is causing a conflict of interests, of values, where prosperity and security are at stake. And it follows that cyber security is an increasingly strategic issue, that needs a whole-of-nation approach if we are to continue to reap the benefits of technology.”
Fleming’s warning comes amid wider political tensions between powers in the West and East. Most notably, the UK and its allies have in recent months accused Russia of targeting healthcare organisations working on coronavirus vaccines.
The pandemic itself has been a “pivotal moment” for cyber security, Fleming said, highlighting how reliant people are on technology, data and connectivity. He warned that bad actors have also noted this reliance and are increasingly looking to exploit the pandemic in order to carry out attacks.
“The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change, both in terms of threats and our response, and cyber is underpinning more and more of our lives,” Fleming said. “Innovations in technology have made it even more central to our societies and data has become the crown jewels we must protect, but it’s easy to see that all of this had also enabled our adversaries. The result is that cyber security is even more relevant to our economy, to our society and, increasingly, to our security.”
A recent report by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) showed that the organisation had taken down over 700,000 online scams and 1.4 million URLs in the last year. It also found there had been a 15-fold rise in the removal of online campaigns compared with 2019, with many scams linked to the NHS or Covid-19.
The NCSC, a parent organisation to GCHQ, also said that it had received over 5.8 million reports to its suspicious email reporting service, including details on 80,000 scams previously unseen.