A third of UK infrastructure fails to meet basic cyber security standards

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According to Freedom of Information requests by Corero Network Security, over a third of the UK’s critical infrastructure doesn’t meet the most basic cybersecurity standards.

The fact that so many infrastructure organisations have not completed the ’10 Steps to Cyber Security’ programme indicates a lack of cyber resilience within organisations which are critical to the functioning of UK society. It also suggests that some of these organisations could be liable for fines of up to £17m, or four per cent of global turnover, under the UK Government’s proposals to implement the EU’s Network and Information Systems (NIS) directive, from May 2018.

The Freedom of Information requests were sent by Corero, in March 2017, to 338 critical infrastructure organisations in the UK, including fire and rescue services, police forces, ambulance trusts, NHS trusts, energy suppliers and transport organisations. In total, 163 responses were received, with 63 organisations (39%) admitting to not having completed the ’10 Steps’ programme. Among responses from NHS Trusts, 42% admitted not having completed the programme.

Sean Newman, Director of Product Management at Corero, said: “Cyber attacks against national infrastructure have the potential to inflict significant, real-life disruption and prevent access to critical services that are vital to the functioning of our economy and society. These findings suggest that many such organisations are not as cyber resilient as they should be, in the face of growing and sophisticated cyber threats.”

Worryingly, the Freedom of Information data revealed that most UK critical infrastructure organisations (51%) are potentially vulnerable to these attacks, because they do not detect or mitigate short-duration surgical DDoS attacks on their networks. As a result, just 5% of these infrastructure operators admitted to experiencing DDoS attacks on their networks in the past year (to March 2017). However, if 90% of the DDoS attacks on their networks are also shorter than 30 minutes, as experienced by Corero customers, the real figure could be considerably higher.

Newman continued: “In the face of a DDoS attack, time is of the essence. Delays of minutes, tens-of-minutes, or more, before a DDoS attack is mitigated is not sufficient to ensure service availability, and could significantly impact the essential services provided by critical infrastructure organisations.

“By not detecting and investigating these short, surgical, DDoS attacks on their networks, infrastructure organisations could also be leaving their doors wide open for malware or ransomware attacks, data theft or more serious cyber attacks. To keep up with the growing sophistication and organisation of well-equipped and well-funded threat actors, it’s essential that organisations maintain comprehensive visibility across their networks, to instantly and automatically detect and block any potential DDoS incursions, as they arise.”

AUTHOR

Stuart O'Brien

All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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