Cyber security centre reveals active defence of government tech

Written by Richard Johnstone on 22 October 2018 in News
News

National Cyber Security Centre annual report reveals it has dealt with 1,100 cyber attacks in its first two years

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The government’s National Cyber Security Centre has revealed details of the steps it takes to protect government and public sector technology, as part of its work to shield the UK economy from threats.

The NCSC’s annual report highlights details of its active cyber defence programme, which is a collection of services that aim to protect the UK from the high-volume commodity attacks.

The NCSC said it believed hostile nation states are behind a majority of cyber incidents, but a four-point programme to tackle the threat covers web checks, a protective domain name system scheme, a takedown service and a mail check, which have been developed and tested in government with “great success”.


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The web check allows public sector bodies to scan their websites for common vulnerabilities, and help bodies identify potential weak spots, while protective DNS blocks malicious sites from being accessed by public bodies. The takedown service aims to prevent cyber criminals impersonating the government online, as people are more likely to click on a link if it appears to come from the UK government, while the mail check system tackles cyber attackers using spoof email addresses to trick victims into opening phishing emails by helping organisations authenticate received emails before they get to individual recipients.

Having developed the system for government, the NCSC annual report stated that the pioneering ACD scheme was protecting the UK from high-volume commodity attacks and its “longer-term goal is to encourage solutions like these to be adopted across other sectors in the UK”.

In total, the report highlighted that NCSC had defended the UK from over 1,100 cyber attacks since it become operational in 2016, and has reduced the UK’s share of global phishing attacks from 5.3% to 2.4% in two years to July 2018.

Among the elements attributed to the active cyber defence programme, the centre highlighted the web check system has identified 2,372 urgent issues that neededfixed in public sector websites, while the protective DNS system has blocked an average of 10,975 unique malicious domains every month. The takedown service had removed 138,398 phishing sites over the last 12 months, and a further 14,116 worldwide, while the mail check service had seen “a significant drop in the abuse of these fake domains”, with the number of messages spoofing protected UK government domains having fallen.

The report stated: “We are now blocking emails spoofing tax-service.gov.uk, and anything else that spoofers create which ends in gov.uk.”

The NCSC, which forms part of Government Communications Headquarters, is “strengthening the UK’s defences against those who seek to harm us online”, chief executive Ciaran Martin said.

“We are calling out unacceptable behaviour by hostile states and giving our businesses the specific information they need to defend themselves. We are improving our critical systems. We are helping to make using the Internet automatically safer.

“As we move into our third year, a major focus of our work will be providing every citizen with the tools they need to keep them safe online. I’m confident that the NCSC will continue to provide the best line of defence in the world to help the UK thrive in the digital age.”

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, who is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the National Cyber Security Strategy, said he was proud of what NCSC has achieved in just two years.

“Our National Cyber Security Strategy set out ambitious proposals for how this government will defend our people, deter our adversaries and develop UK capabilities to ensure we remains the safest place to live and do business online,” he said.

“NCSC has more than risen to this challenge, defending the UK from over 1,100 cyber attacks and reducing the UK’s share of global phishing attacks by more than half.”

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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