UK’s first national security center to open in Wales

Vaughan Gething at the launch of The Cyber action plan for Wales ahead of the CymruSOC launch
(Image credit: Socura)

The UK's first national security operations center is launching in Wales, aimed at protecting Welsh local authorities and fire and rescue services from cyber attacks.

Led by the Welsh government, together with Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Cymru Security Operations Centre (CymruSOC) will focus on making sure that key organizations can continue offering critical services without disruption in the event of an attack.

"The challenges people across Wales have faced in recent years due to the pandemic have shown the importance of digital in our lives. It has become central to the way we learn, work, access public services and do business,” said first minister Vaughan Gething.

“However, our reliance on digital has also led to a stark increase in the risk of cyber attacks which are becoming ever more common and sophisticated.

"CymruSOC is a first-of-its-kind solution with social partnership at its heart – ensuring we take a ‘defend as one’ approach. It’s a vital part of our Cyber Action Plan for Wales, which – one year since its launch – is making good progress to protect public services and strengthen cyber resilience and preparedness.”

The SOC service will be managed by Cardiff-based firm Socura, which will monitor for potential threats such as phishing and ransomware from its 24/7 remote SOC.

Working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), CymruSOC will also share threat intelligence information to ensure awareness of emerging risks.

"People rely on their local council at every stage of their life. It’s where they register a birth, apply for schools, housing, and marriage licenses, which makes them a prized target for financially motivated cybercriminal groups as well as nation state actors seeking to cause disruption to critical infrastructure," said Socura CEO Andy Kays.

"It is our job to ensure that these critical services remain unaffected by cyber criminals’ attempts to steal data and cause disruption."

The creation of the center follows the Welsh government's publication of a Cyber Action Plan for Wales in May last year, aimed at growing the cyber sector, building a talent pipeline, boosting resilience, and protecting public services.

An All-Wales Cyber Technical Advisory Cell (CTAC) has already been set up, with volunteers from police forces, the health service and industry, while the Welsh Government has also funded a Cyber Resilience Unit for the NHS in Wales.

Earlier this year, the Welsh government’s iShare Connect portal was reportedly hacked, although it said there was no evidence that any sensitive information was accessed.

And, last November, Harlech Community Council in North Wales was tricked into handing over £9,000 - 10% of its annual budget - to online fraudsters.

"By sharing a SOC, and threat intel, across all Welsh local authorities, even the smallest Welsh town will now have the expertise and defenses of a large modern enterprise organization," Kays said.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.