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February 28, 2018

UK emergency services at heightened risk of cyber-attack

Emergency services upgrade to mobile devices leaves the UK vulnerable to attack.

By James Nunns

The UK’s emergency services are at risk of a major cyber attack, according to a new landscape analysis issued by threat intelligence provider Anomali.

The UK Threat Landscape report explored the Critical National Infrastructure against threats and possible vulnerabilities.

The report pointed to a several weak spots in the UK which could attract an attack, the most notable being the Defence Equipment and Supply Organisation in addition to the emergency services.

The Defence Equipment and Supply Organisation presents a prime target for actors seeking to disrupt defence procurement, it said.

The analysis also pointed to the vulnerability of the UK’s energy infrastructure, where 21% of all electricity is generated by 15 nuclear reactors, all of which are owned by EDF.

Such combination of monopoly of ownership and geographic clustering puts the civil nuclear sector constantly on a high state of alert for a terrorist and cyber-attack.

According to the report, the nature of the economy and industry in the UK present a combination of opportunity and risk to those looking to plan a hybrid attack.

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While the network of SMEs which support Critical National Infrastructure strengthens its resilience, the geographical clustering of industries can weaken the system, leaving them vulnerable to attack, and the emergency services are an example.

It said that the breadth and complexity of the emergency services organisations mean there are several points of potential weakness and the attacks over the past few years are testament to this weakness.

The report said that the UK’s emergency services need to take action to stop this heightened risk becoming a reality.

“One of the best means of preventing these attacks is ensuring that knowledge of cyber threats is shared between emergency services operators so all can ensure the resilience of their networks,” the reported added

Anomali CEO Hugh Njemanze said: “The UK presents a complex cyber risk picture – previous foreign policy commitments and current tensions between NATO and other nation states make it a target for international terror organisations.

“In addition to this, the UK’s financial services sector, which is a key pillar of the economy, is highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks – it is subject to regular and significant stress tests by the Bank of England to prevent a major disruption to the economy.”

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