Russia-aligned cyber groups have turned their attention to “destroying” Britain’s critical infrastructure, a cabinet minister will warn on Wednesday. Mr Dowden, expected to speak later today, will reveal that several groups aligned with Russian president Vladimir Putin, having learned valuable hacking lessons from the conflict in Ukraine, where cyber attacks have taken down the national power grid, interfered with nuclear power plants and satellite communication systems, have turned their focus towards the UK.
Warning that cyber security is closely linked to economic prosperity, Mr Dowden is set to unveil new measures to support businesses “on the front line of our cyber defences” to counter this threat.
The speech by Mr Dowden, who is also responsible for national investment security, will confirm the alert raised by the NCSC over the “emerging risk posed by state-aligned adversaries” in the wake of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The senior minister will reveal that in the last few months, several Russia-aligned groups have turned to focus on the UK.
He will add that the disclosure of this threat to the public is not “something that is done lightly”.
Officials from the NCSC, endorsed by Mr Dowden, will recommend that organisations “act now” to protect against future attacks.
The businesses likely to be targeted include the utilities and energy sectors, both of which are vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The adversaries, described by Mr Dowden as “ideologically, rather than financially, motivated”, making them “particularly concerning”, will target these public-service sectors in a bid to “disrupt or destroy” the UK.
The cabinet minister will also use the address at the CyberUK conference to acknowledge that more needs to be done to improve salaries to attract cybersecurity experts into the civil service.
Mr Dowden will say: “These are the companies in charge of keeping our country running. Of keeping the lights on.
“Our shared prosperity depends on them taking their own security seriously. A bricks-and-mortar business wouldn’t survive if it left the back door open to criminals every night.
“Equally in today’s world, businesses can’t afford… to leave their digital back door open to cyber crooks and hackers.
“The safer we make our businesses, the safer we make our economy – and the more attractive we become as a destination for entrepreneurs.”
Research by cyber security services firm Bridewell identified a 50 per cent rise in ransomware threats against the UK’s infrastructure in the past year, according to its latest data.
In January, Royal Mail was hit by a cyber attack which was linked to Russia, causing severe disruption to parts of its services.
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Last year, South Staffordshire Plc, the parent company of South Staffs Water and Cambridge Water, was also the target of a criminal cyber attack.
In response to the raised threat, Mr Dowden will announce plans to set “specific and ambitious cyber resilience targets” for all critical national infrastructure sectors to meet within two years.
He will also move to bring private sector businesses working on critical infrastructure into the scope of resilience regulations.
The annual CyberUK conference, which is run by the Government and attracts a host of officials and industry figures, will also hear from the head of the National Cyber Security Centre, Lindy Cameron, who is set to warn of the “epoch-defining” challenge China poses to the West.
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