UK’s Poor Cyber Risk Planning Could “Wreak Havoc”

The UK’s long-term risk planning is under-powered and could expose the nation if it is struck by a serious cyber-threat, a new House of Lords (HoL) report has found.

The study, Preparing for Extreme Risks: Building a Resilient Society, was produced by the upper chamber’s Select Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning after interviews with 85 expert witnesses.

It claimed that the government spends too much of its time reacting to crises and emergencies, neglecting the kind of long-term planning which would have prepared the country better for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The UK’s unpreparedness to manage the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus was and is clear. More broadly, our inquiry has analyzed the UK’s risk assessment process and found that our current system is deficient at assessing and addressing future threats and hazards,” it argued.

“However, pandemics are only one of a number of extreme risks facing the UK. Severe space weather events could render smart technologies on which much of society relies inoperable for weeks or longer; this would include GPS, the internet, communications systems and power supplies. A cyber or physical attack on our critical national infrastructure could wreak havoc.”

An AXA report published in September ranked cybersecurity second only to climate change as the biggest global risk. It was ranked as the number one business risk over the coming decade by North American and UK respondents to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report last year.

“If you ask, what keeps me awake at nights, it is the growing possibility of major disruption due to more and more frequent cyber-attacks,” said HoL committee member and noted astrophysicist, Martin Rees. “Even more, I worry on a timescale of tens of years about bioterrorism, bioengineered viruses and all that, which are going to be feasible.”

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