UK Spooks Handled Record Number of Cyber-Incidents Last Year

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has hailed its world-beating cybersecurity expertise after handling hundreds of incidents and disrupting millions of cyber-attack campaigns over the past year.

The government agency, part of signals intelligence body GCHQ, said it offered wraparound support for a record 777 incidents over the period, including attacks on COVID-19 vaccine research, distribution and supply chains.

That’s an increase of over 7% on the previous year, with a fifth (20%) of cases in total linked to the healthcare and vaccine sectors.

This growth is not necessarily reflective of the volume of serious incidents impacting UK firms but also the NCSC’s increasing capacity and intent to identify threats proactively, it said.

Other wins for the agency included its relatively new Suspicious Email Reporting Service, which accrued 5.9 million reports over the year, leading to the removal of more than 53,000 scams and 96,500 malicious URLs.

The service is part of the NCSC’s Active Cyber Defence program, a mainstay of its work which took down 2.3 million cyber-enabled “commodity campaigns,” 442 phishing campaigns using NHS branding, and 80 malicious NHS apps.

Available to mainly public sector organizations, the program includes Mail Check for DMARC-enabled phishing protection and Web Check and Early Warning services to scan for exposed ports such as RDP, commonly exploited in ransomware attacks.

There’s also a Protective Domain Name System (PDNS) service that blocks connections to known malicious domains, Host-Based Capability for network scanning, and Vulnerability Disclosure Services which encourage reporting of software flaws in government.

“This year we have seen countless examples of cybersecurity threats: from state-sponsored activity to criminal ransomware attacks. It all serves to remind us that what happens online doesn’t stay online — there are real consequences of virtual activity,” said GCHQ director, Jeremy Fleming.

“In the face of rising cyber-attacks and an evolving threat, this year’s NCSC’s Annual Review shows that world-class cybersecurity, enabled by the expertise of the NCSC as part of GCHQ, continues to be vital to the UK’s safety and prosperity.”

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