National Cyber Securty Centre’s 2017 Annual Review

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) celebrates its first anniversary of operations this week.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) celebrates its first anniversary of operations this week.

The Annual Review highlights the work it has done to make the UK the safest place to live and work online.

While there is still much work to be done, the NCSC’s first annual report says it has prevented thousands of cyber attacks since its inception.

The NCSC received 1,131 incident reports, with 590 classed as “significant”, according to the agency’s first annual review.

Those “significant attacks” ranged from attacks on key national institutions such as the National Health Service (NHS) and the UK and Scottish Parliaments, through to attacks on large and small businesses and other organisations, said Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the NCSC.

But, he said, so much of the NCSC’s work aims to make successful attacks less likely, and to that end the NCSC has so far produced more than 200,000 protective items for military communications; supported the Cabinet Office in developing more secure communications for key government organisations; and supported the Home Office in ensuring the security of new mobile communications for emergency services.

The NCSC, part of GCHQ, brought together elements of its parent organisation with previously separate parts of government and intelligence to create a single, one stop shop for UK cyber security, with the aim of making the UK the safest place to live and work online.

A crucial part of the NCSC’s role is to help everyone in the UK operate more securely online.

“Through a pioneering partnership with the private sector, tens of millions of suspicious communications in the UK are being blocked every month,” he said.

Martin highlighted the fact that the NCSC’s Active Cyber Defence programme has developed capabilities, which have seen the average lifetime for a phishing site hosted in the UK reduce from 27 hours to less than an hour.

He added that the NCSC’s information-sharing platform with industry, the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP), grew 43% over the year.

However, he said the NSCS still has much to do in the years ahead to “counter this strategic threat to our values, prosperity and way of life” in collaboration with GCHQ and the UK intelligence community, law enforcement, wider government, industry and the rest of the world.

Martin said cyber security is crucial to the UK’s national security and prosperity. “We’re incredibly proud of what we have achieved in our first year, bringing together some of the best cyber security brains in the country in a single place.

“But the threat remains very real and growing – further attacks will happen and there is much more for us to do. We look forward to working with our partners at home and abroad in the year ahead in pursuit of that vital goal,” he said.

According to the review, tens of millions of cyber attacks are being blocked every week by industry partners implementing NCSC’s Active Cyber Defence programme

The programme currently includes the NCSC’s protected domain name server (DNS) service built by Nominet to block bad stuff from being accessed from government systems; the use and support of the domain-based message authentication, reporting and conformance protocol (Dmarc) to block bad emails pretending to be from government; and a phishing and malware countermeasures service to protect the UK, including government brands.

Similarly, while the number of IP-addresses associated with phishing around the world is up 47% this year, the UK share of those has gone down from 5.1% to 3.3%.

 

Major cyber incidents accelerating, says NCSC

The UK is seeing an acceleration in major cyber security incidents, according to the country’s cyber security protection agency.

The UK is seeing an acceleration in major cyber security incidents, according to the country’s cyber security protection agency

In the eight months since inception, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has recorded 480 major cyber incidents requiring its attention.

However, there has been big rise in these types of incidents in the past few months, in part due to an improved ability to spot them and a greater willingness to report them, according to John Noble, director of incident management at the NCSC.

“This increase in major attacks is mainly being driven by the fact that cyber attack tools are becoming more readily available, in combination with a growing willingness to use them,” he told The Cyber Security Summit in London.

Although the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May 2017 came very close, Noble said there had been no C1-level national cyber security incidents to date.

The majority of the major incidents the NCSC has dealt with were C3-level attacks, typically confined to single organisations. These account for 451 incidents to date.

The remaining 29 major incidents were C2-level attacks, significant attacks that typically require a cross-government response.

Across these nearly 500 incidents, Noble said there were five common themes or lessons to be learned.

1. There is still a need for organisations to get the basics right

“We are still seeing organisations that are not getting the basics right, like software security patching, antivirus updating and putting in basic protections and controls for system administrators, who are typically big targets for attackers to steal their credentials,” said Noble.

2. Failure to get the balance right between usability and security

“In the vast majority of incidents we see, victim organisations have got this balance wrong, leaning too far in the direction of convenience and usability leading to things like logging being turned off to optimise performance,” said Noble.

“The decision-making around where to strike that balance is typically confused because of the complexity of the enterprises being defended, and because of a lack of understanding about what they are trying to prevent and which data really matters,” he said.

3. Legacy systems and equipment

The existence of legacy systems and equipment in the enterprise presents opportunities to attackers, said Noble. “Often, when we investigate incidents, we find it is in the legacy systems that the compromise has begun,” he said.

4. Outsourcing

“In early 2017, we reported on a major compromise of managed service providers, which provide a tremendous opportunity for bad actors,” said Noble, alluding to Operation Cloud Hopper that was uncovered in April.

“MSPs enable attackers to obtain security credentials in one country, traverse across their network, and then compromise a company or series of companies in another country, and exfiltrate the data through a third country,” he said.

In response, Noble said the NCSC had published a list of questions organisations should ask their MSPs in terms of security.

“Similarly, organisations need to understand the security implications of their supply chains, who they are connecting up to, and what risks are involved,” he said.

5. Mergers and acquisitions

In mergers and acquisition, cyber security is often overlooked in the due diligence process, said Noble. “As a result, the cyber risk is not understood and not addressed effectively,” he said.

So if you want to save yourself stress, money and a damaged reputation from a cyber incident please ring us now on 01242 521967 or email [email protected] or complete the form on our contact page NOWContact Cyber 139

The National Cyber Security Centre officially opens for business

The Queen officially opened the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) yesterday- the single, central body for cyber security at a national level.

The Queen officially opened the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) yesterdayThe NCSC is core to the government’s National Cyber Security Strategy, which was unveiled on 1 October 2016.

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.

Camelot’s National Lottery accounts are hacked

It could be you- as tens of thousands of online lottery Camelot players’ accounts are hacked.

It could be you- as tens of thousands of online lottery Camelot players' accounts are hacked.National Lottery operator Camelot says the login details of thousands of people who do the lottery online have been stolen.

There are 9.5 million national lottery players registered online, but Camelot said only around 26,500 accounts were accessed. It added that fewer than 50 accounts have had suspicious activity, such as personal details being changed, since the breach.

The company said it unearthed “suspicious activity on a very small proportion of our players’ online National Lottery Accounts” during its online security monitoring on 28 November 2016.

It added that there has been no unauthorised access to core systems. “In addition, no money has been deposited or withdrawn from affected player accounts,” said Camelot.

“However, we do believe that this attack may have resulted in some of the personal information that the affected players hold in their online account being accessed.”

The company said it is now trying to find out what happened, but it believes that “the email address and password used on the National Lottery website may have been stolen from another website where affected players use the same details”.

The affected accounts have been suspended and Camelot will contact the account holders to re-activate them. Camelot added that it is working with the National Cyber Security Centre on the incident.

Are you an online lottery player?

If so, just crossing your fingers is not enough. To mitigate risks in the short term, account holders should update passwords and avoid using the same password across multiple sites.

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) launched today

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is officially launched and open for business today 4 October 2016.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is officially launched and open for business today 4 October 2016.The government outlined what the NCSC would do, how it would work and who it would work for in May this year, but had not given a precise date for the official opening of the centre until now.

The NCSC will be led by CEO Ciaran Martin, formerly director general of government and industry cyber security at intelligence agency GCHQ, and the technical director will be Ian Levy, formerly technical director of cyber security at GCHQ.

The NCSC will be run from new offices in London as well as from offices near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

The primary goal of the NCSC is to simplify the complicated cyber security picture across government that made it difficult for organisations to know who to talk to.

It brings together all the key organisations under a single organisational umbrella to provide better support and bridge the gaps between government, industry and critical national infrastructure.

There were four main goals for the NCSC, which began preparatory work and conducted trials and pilot studies over the summer:

  • These are to reduce cyber security risk to the UK;
  • To respond effectively to cyber incidents and reduce the harm they cause to the UK;
  • To understand the cyber security environment, share knowledge and address systemic vulnerabilities and;
  • To build the UK’s cyber security capability, providing leadership on key national cyber security issues.

The NCSC has five areas of focus: engagement, strategy and communications, incident management, operations, and technical research and innovation.

In the next six months, the NCSC will test its strategic plan and refine it further based on feedback received.

NCSC- National Cyber Security Centre for cyber expertise

NCSC- the National Cyber Security Centre for cyber expertise review.

NCSC- the National Cyber Security Centre for cyber expertise review.Following on from the Cyber Security Force’s news post yesterday outline NCSC- the National Cyber Security Centre, the UK government plans to make the NCSC the centre of its expertise on what is happening in cyber space, combining the knowledge gathered from incidents and intelligence with that shared with industry, academia and international partners.

The NCSC will aim to use that knowledge to provide best practice advice and guidance and to tackle systemic vulnerabilities to enhance cyber security for all.

The NCSC will support the most critical organisations in the UK across government and the private sector to secure and defend their networks. This will include the provision of bespoke advice and guidance, help to design and test networks and exercise response arrangements.

When a serious cyber incident occurs, the NCSC will work with victims to minimise the damage, help with recovery and learn lessons to reduce the chance of recurrence and minimise future impact.

According to the prospectus, this help will include connecting victims with commercial companies that are recognised as being excellent at cyber incident response, and ensuring that the wider response of government and law enforcement is well co-ordinated.

In the case of very serious incidents, the NCSC’s response may include communicating publicly about consequences and the steps people and businesses should take to protect themselves.

The establishment of the NCSC will bring a new level of coherence and effectiveness to how government does cyber security. It seeks to partner with government agencies and departments, the devolved administrations, and the wider public and private sectors.

The NCSC will also work in close partnership with law enforcement to support their efforts to tackle cyber crime, and with the UK’s security and intelligence agencies and the Ministry of Defence to identify and counter the full range of threats in cyber space.

The NCSC will support the government’s wider security and prosperity agenda by engaging with international partners on incident handling, situational awareness, building technical capabilities and capacity and contributing to broader cyber security discussions.

For organisations that have their own networks, the NCSC will run the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP). This is aimed at enabling organisations to share information with each other and the NCSC about what they are seeing on their networks, and provide a forum for discussion from beginner through to expert level.

The NCSC will produce tailored advice and guidance to identified sectors and proactively work with companies on this. However, it will initially focus on sectors which form the critical national infrastructure and those of strategic or significant economic importance or tied to the delivery of key public services.

The NCSC will not offer an enquiries line for the general public and Action Fraud will continue to be the first port of call for victims to report suspected cyber crime.

However, when there is a significant cyber incident affecting the UK, the NCSC will have the leading role for government in communicating to the public, to provide reassurance and guidance on what individuals and organisations can do to better protect themselves.

The NCSC’s specialist teams will work with the Ministry of Defence – and other users of very secure communications – to ensure that operational needs are met. It will also ensure the capabilities needed to operate both independently and with the UK’s allies are available in the future.

The NCSC will work with the cyber security industry to help ensure organisations of all kinds can find cyber security products and services that are high quality and meet their needs.

UK gov’s plans for National Cyber Security Centre

The UK government has outlined what the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) will do, how it will work and who it will work for.

The UK government has outlined what the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) will do, how it will work and who it will work for.The NCSC is set to open in October 2016 and will be based in London. The NCSC will be led by CEO Ciaran Martin, formerly director general of government and industry cyber security at intelligence agency GCHQ. The technical director for the NCSC will be Ian Levy, formerly technical director of cyber security at GCHQ.

Chancellor George Osborne announced the NCSC in November 2015 as part of the government’s National Cyber Security strategy for the next five years, supported with £1.9 billion funding.

The NCSC is at the heart of that strategy and will be the “bridge” between industry and government, said Matthew Hancock, minister for the Cabinet Office.

It will simplify the “current complex structures, providing a unified source of advice and support, including on managing incidents. It will be a single point of contact for the private and public sectors alike,” he wrote in foreward to the prospectus for the NCSC.

Hancock said it is “vital” that the NSCS works with industry from the very start, and called on UK businesses to give feedback on the centre’s proposed design.

NCSC CEO Ciaran Martin invited UK industry to engage with his team about what they would like to get out of working with the NCSC.

“The government has set out its intent to address the cyber threat, to put tough and innovative approaches in place, and to be a world leader in cyber security.”

“The National Cyber Security Centre will be at the heart of this approach, bringing together the capabilities already developed by CESG – the information security arm of GCHQ, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, Cert-UK and the Centre for Cyber Assessment.

“This will allow us to build on the best of what we already have, while significantly simplifying the current arrangements,” he said.

According to the prospectus, the NCSC will have four key objectives:

  • To understand the cyber security environment, share knowledge, and use that expertise to identify and address systemic vulnerabilities.
  • To reduce risks to the UK by working with public and private sector organisations to improve their cyber security.
  • To respond to cyber security incidents to reduce the harm they cause to the UK.
  • To nurture and grow national cyber security capability, and provide leadership on critical national cyber security issues.

Cyber Security Force will detail more information on the NCSC in our next news post.