UK security hub targets Russian cyber threat

LONDON • Queen Elizabeth II has inaugurated Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), spearheading the country's efforts to combat a growing wave of cyber attacks, notably from Russia.

The 90-year-old monarch formally opened the London hub alongside her husband, Prince Philip, 95, and a host of government ministers, including Finance Minister Philip Hammond.

"The cyber attacks we are seeing are increasing in their frequency, their severity and their sophistication," Mr Hammond said at the official opening. "In the first three months of its existence, the NCSC has already mobilised to respond to attacks on 188 occasions."

Mr Hammond vowed to "invest the necessary resources" and called for a "team effort" to counter the attacks against businesses and individuals. The centre is one element of a £1.9 billion (S$3.4 billion) government strategy unveiled last November to tackle cyber threats.

As part of its bid to tighten security, the government is opening 100 posts at the new hub to be filled by private-sector employees on secondment from their jobs. Part of Britain's communications spying agency GCHQ, the London hub is aimed at implementing preventive measures such as better securing state websites and e-mail accounts.

Staff were already preparing for a major "Category 1" cyber attack, which was expected to happen sooner or later, NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin said in a Sunday Times interview.

He accused Moscow of targeting political institutions and parliamentary organisations.

"Over the last two years, there has been a step change in Russian aggression in cyberspace," he told the newspaper.

Cyber attacks on government departments seek information on policy, including energy and diplomacy, while state-sponsored attacks on companies can be aimed at stealing intellectual property, Mr Martin added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'UK security hub targets Russian cyber threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe