The Queen officially opened the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) yesterday- the single, central body for cyber security at a national level.
Staff in Victoria, central London, will be joined by experts from GCHQ and the private sector to help identify threats.
At the time, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said: “The new National Cyber Security Centre will provide a hub of world-class, user-friendly expertise for businesses and individuals, as well as rapid response to major incidents.”
Hammond said the government’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review classified cyber as a Tier One threat to the UK, and outlined the actions the government needed to take to secure the country.
According to the National Cyber Security 2016-2021 report, NCSC’s role will be to manage national cyber incidents, provide an authoritative voice and centre of expertise on cyber security, and deliver tailored support and advice to government departments, the devolved administrations, regulators and businesses.
“The NCSC will analyse, detect and understand cyber threats, and will also provide its cyber security expertise to support the government’s efforts to foster innovation, support a thriving cyber security industry, and stimulate the development of cyber security skills,” the report said.
There were 188 cyber attacks classed by the NCSC as Category Two or Three during the last three months.
And even though the UK has not experienced a Category One attack – the highest level, an example of which would have been the theft of confidential details of millions of Americans from the Office of Personnel Management – there is no air of complacency at the NCSC’s new headquarters.
Ciaran Martin, the centre’s chief executive, said “We have had significant losses of personal data, significant intrusions by hostile state actors, significant reconnaissance against critical national infrastructure – and our job is to make sure we deal with it in the most effective way possible.”
As well as protecting against and responding to high-end attacks on government and business, the NCSC also aims to protect the economy and wider society.
The UK is one of the most digitally dependent economies, with the digital sector estimated to be worth over £118 billion per year – which means the country has much to lose.
It is not just a crippling cyber-attack on infrastructure that could turn out the lights which worries officials, but also a loss of confidence in the digital economy from consumers and businesses, as a result of criminals exploiting online vulnerabilities.
A sustained effort was required by government and private sector working together to make the UK the hardest possible target, officials say.
Russia has been the focus of recent concern, following claims it used cyber-attacks to interfere with the recent US presidential election.
“I think there has been a significant change in the Russian approach to cyber-attacks and the willingness to carry it out, and clearly that’s something we need to be prepared to deal with,” Mr Martin said.