Security

UK debuts new National Cyber Security Centre to take on cybercrime

On Tuesday, the UK's National Cyber Security Centre officially launched, with plans to use the government as 'a guinea pig' for national security measures.

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Image: iStockphoto/Kirill_Savenko

The UK is increasing its domestic cybersecurity stance. Tuesday marked the official launch of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which aims to uncover new tactics to prevent and mitigate attacks at both the government and national level.

"Our main purpose is to reduce the cyber security risk to the UK by improving its cyber security and cyber resilience," according to a report released Tuesday. "We recognise that, despite all our efforts to reduce risks and enhance security, incidents will happen. When they do, the NCSC will provide effective incident response to minimise harm to the UK, help with recovery and learn lessons for the future."

The report outlines various technological advances and UK security efforts starting from the 1830s and culminating with the NCSC, which was announced in October 2016. "With a vision to help make the UK the safest place to live and do business online, the NCSC was set up as a bridge between industry and government, providing a unified source of advice, guidance and support on cyber security, including the management of cyber security incidents," according to the report.

The NCSC's launch comes after the UK government recently experienced a number of high-profile security breaches, as reported by ZDNet, including a a Trojan malware attack on the UK's largest hospital group, Barts Health NHS Trust, and a ransomware attack at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust. Earlier this month, the Public Accounts Committee called the government's approach to cybersecurity "inconsistent, dysfunctional and chaotic," ZDNet reported.

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The new organization will bring together and replace three existing cybersecurity groups: The Center for Cyber Assessment (CCA), Computer Emergency Response Team UK (CERT UK), and GESG (GCHQ's information security group). It will also include the cyber-related jobs of the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI).

"The NCSC will work together with UK organisations, businesses and individuals to provide authoritative and coherent cyber security advice and cyber incident management," the report stated. "This is underpinned by world-class research and innovation."

The NCSC aims to manage cyber incidents as well as help citizens protect their machines before a security breach occurs. The strategy is to "use government as a guinea pig for all the measures we want to see done at national scale," said NCSC technical director Ian Levy in the report.

According to the report, the NCSC is currently working on the following projects:

  • Making email safer

Emails are the most common vehicle for cyber attacks, especially phishing attacks, the report said. The NCSC is working with the Government Digital Service on an email security standard using antispoofing technologies for the government that the public can use as an example.

  • Free vulnerability scanning service for public organisations

The NSCS is developing a service to track and promote the adoption of a service called WebCheck, which allows government organizations to create simple reports about vulnerabilities on internet domains they own to help mitigate them.

  • Encouraging innovative alternatives for identity/authentication

The group will use government services to trial new identity and authentication techniques, and to promote research and development on these new methods.

  • Secure by Default Partnership Programme

This program will help public sector organizations adopt new technologies, and share the results with the wider public.

  • Automated filtering to protect the UK's computer network

The NCSC will build a Domain Name System (DNS) service for the public sector, to protect their networks from attack and gain data insights to better understand the needs of public sector IT. The public sector DNS will launch in April 2017, and following that, the NCSC will discuss doing something similar for residential customers of internet service providers. "Our intent is that, by default, the UK public will be protected from things that would do them harm without their knowledge - with an easy opt-out if they so desire," the report stated.

  • Improving the UK's software ecosystem

If a user has out-of-date software and visits gov.uk, the site warns that they are susceptible to attack. The NCSC wants to take a similar approach to other popular UK websites to encourage more citizens to update their software.

  • Mitigating against attacks and responding to incidents

Working with UK company Netcraft, the NCSC aims to counter common attacks hosted in the UK IP space. Since June 2016, a total of 54,456 attacks have been blocked. When incidents do occur, the group will provide response and help with recovery. The NCSC will offer support 24/7 for these attacks.

  • Building the UK's cyber security capability in research, innovation and skills

The NCSC has established a number of research initiatives to enhance cybersecurity technology, including those in K-12 schools, universities, and other academic institutions.

The report also described future areas to address, including increasing threats from other states, quantum technologies, automation, Internet of Things (IoT), and smart cities.

"While predicting the future is impossible, the NCSC is absolutely committed to using our expertise to track and forecast upcoming changes in the cyber landscape so that we can continue to safeguard people's lives and work online," the report stated.

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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