UK infrastructure is vulnerable to cyber attacks

Parliament building at night

Cyber attacks as well as terrorism and Russian aggression are threats to the UK, according to Prime Minister Theresa May's first National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence review.

The document lays out British priorities for security for the coming years, highlighting the impact of technology and the security skills gap.

"The range of cyber threats and cyber actors threatening the UK has grown significantly both from state and non-state actors," the report said. "The UK increasingly relies on networked technology in all areas of society, business and government. This means that we could be vulnerable to attacks on parts of networks that are essential for the day-to-day running of the country and the economy."

The report claimed the government is working with industry to protect British networks, pointing to the 1.9 billion it announced earlier this year to shore up digital defences. "This will include active cyber defence, a national cyber security centre, a dedicated ability to counter-attack in cyberspace, an ambitious skills programme, and help to grow the UK cyber security sector," the report explained.

The new National Cyber Security Centre, launched in October, is "significantly enhancing the UK's ability to deal with the full spectrum of cyber security threats," and will help industry and government work together to share information on attacks, it added.

As part of such efforts, the government has been offering security training to businesses, saying it's issued 2,673 certificates for its Cyber Essentials scheme so far.

Alongside the previously announced efforts, the report revealed a "secure cross-government network" is in the works, to make it easier to securely share information across departments. "The programme has benefited from review by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, and is currently in a proof of concept phase," the report added.

The report also revealed that the National Crime Agency and police agencies have made "good progress" on hitting a target of employing 80 "cyber specials" by March 2018, highlighting the skills gap in public security. The government's Cyber Security Skills Strategy is "under development", and the government has expanded GCHQ's CyberFirst scheme, which looks for "young cyber talent". Alongside that, the government is working with industry on cyber apprenticeships for the energy, finance and transport sectors.

Such skills are needed not only for defence, but because the private sector is booming, with British cyber security exports up 25% year on year, and expected to hit 2 billion by the end of this year.

In case you're wondering, the 39-page report used the word "cyber" 88 times.