UK institutions are often the target of ‘high level’ attacks
UK institutions are often the target of ‘high level’ attacks

UK Institutions are being assailed by formidable cyber-attacks, according to Ciaran Martin, head of the new National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Martin told the Sunday Times that the UK had been hit by 188 high-level attacks in the past three months alone. The NCSC is currently investigating the attacks which are believed to originate from nation-state actors.

The scores of attacks often targeted sensitive information in government departments, trying to access policy information on a wide range of topics.

Local government has recently been a target for attackers too. Lincolnshire County Council was hit with a ransomware attack early last year and more recently Aberdeen City Council's website was defaced by unknown assailants.  

This only underlines the need for bodies like the NCSC, as Peter Carlisle, VP EMEA at Thales e-Security told SC Media UK. “With hackers also targeting local government organisations, it's absolutely critical that the public sector continues the collaborative approach set out by the National Cyber Security Centre,” he said.

He added, “It's crystal clear that cyber-criminals will stop at nothing to breach public sector security in an effort to get into Whitehall systems.”

Martin told The Times that these attacks come against a backdrop of increased hostility toward the west: “Over the last two years there has been a step change in Russian aggression in cyberspace. Part of that step change has been a series of attacks on political institutions, political parties, parliamentary organisations and that's all very well evidenced by our international partners and widely accepted.”

Fears about foreign cyber-aggression came to a head after US intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had haGerman and French officials have both expressed marked caution over interference in their upcoming elections and the Dutch government has chosen to conduct this year's election with paper ballots to head off the threat of cyber-interference.

Martin's comments were not made in isolation. Philip Hammond, the home secretary, recently told the Sunday Telegraph that the NCSC had blocked nearly 35,000 ‘potential attacks' in the past six months.

The Centre will be officially opened by the Queen on Tuesday 14 February.