The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, has revealed the scale of the cyber threats that the UK has faced over the past year.

The NCSC published its annual review on Tuesday, that examined the threat landcape since 1 September 2019 through to August 2020. Among the threats it encountered, nore than a quarter of the incidents which it responded to were related to Covid-19.

This should hardly be a surprise however. Back in April 2020, NCSC warned that at state-backed hackers and online criminals were exploiting the Coronavirus pandemic. In the UK, the NCSC detected more scams relating to Covid-19 than any other subject.

Covid attacks

The NCSC began operations in October 2016, and it acts as the front-line base for providing government organisations and UK-based businesses with advice on how to defend against cyber threats.

Every year it publishes its annual review of the state of cyber threats in the UK.

In October 2019 for example, it said that it had ‘handled’ 658 attacks on 900 organisations, including schools, airports and emergency services.

It said at the the time that a significant number of incidents came from hostile nation states,namely Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

But that was before the Coronavirus pandemic engulfed the world in late 2019 and early 2020, NCSC has spend a lot of time building resilience for healthcare institutions.

Now the NCSC said that in the time period mentioned above, the number of attacks it had handled had increased to 723 incidents, of which “more than 200” were related to Coronavirus.

How will businesses ensure post-Covid-19, that their organisation is safe and secure? Read our guide.

Some of the incidents related to countering nation-state attacks, but most were criminal in nature, NCSC said.

Russian hackers

Threats encountered range from malware, phishing, ransomware and even Internet-of-Things (IoT) based cyber attacks.

However nation states are still actively targetting Covid-19 research (the UK is one of the leading nations researching the virus).

In July NCSC warned that hackers linked to the Russian government (APT29), were targetting researchers developing a Covid-19 vaccine.

“It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” said Dominic Raab, MP, Foreign Sectary. “While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behaviour, the UK and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.“The UK will continue to counter those conducting such cyber attacks, and work with our allies to hold perpetrators to account.”

“We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” added Paul Chichester, NCSC director of operations.

“Working with our allies, the NCSC is committed to protecting our most critical assets and our top priority at this time is to protect the health sector,” Chichester added. “We would urge organisations to familiarise themselves with the advice we have published to help defend their networks.”

NCSC also revealed that in October this year, it has appointed a new CEO Lindy Cameron, who has taken on the baton that was developed by her predecessor, Ciaran Martin.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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