Hostile foreign governments launch up to ten cyber attacks on Britain a week, making it inevitable that one will cause a national emergency, a report warns.
A so-called Category 1 strike could lead to deaths or sustained disruption of essential services and economic stability.
Hackers directed or sponsored by foreign states pose the biggest threat, the report by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warns.
Since it was set up in 2016, the NCSC, which is part of the GCHQ intelligence agency, has dealt with 1,167 attacks – including 557 in the past 12 months.
Its boss, Ciaran Martin, said: ‘The majority of these incidents were, we believe, perpetrated from within nation states in some way hostile to the UK.
‘They were undertaken by groups of computer hackers directed, sponsored or tolerated by governments of those countries. These groups constitute the most acute and direct cyber threat to national security.
‘I remain in little doubt we will be tested to the full by a major incident in the years ahead.’
Although there have been several ‘very significant’ incidents, Mr Martin said the UK has so far avoided a Category 1 attack.
But he added: ‘Even if this continues, we must be alert to the constant threat from countries who will attack critically important national networks to steal information for strategic or commercial reasons, and give themselves a starting point – “pre-positioning” – for a significant attack in the future.’
The warning comes less than a fortnight after Britain and other countries accused Russia of being behind a campaign of cyber attacks.
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said: ‘The threat from criminals, hacktivists and nation states continues to increase.’
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.