UK Cyber Threats: Government’s Response to Blackouts

November 23rd, 2016
UK Cyber Threats: Government’s Response to Blackouts

The new government faces one more challenge and if not handled well then the entire energy sector will be left disgruntled. The latest issue that’s cropped up in front of Theresa May’s government is a big threat to the energy networks. Experts suggest that UK energy networks are susceptible to terrorist attacks and cyber crimes. According to them, the terrorists may use the digital medium and cyber options to hamper the flow of energy in the United Kingdom.

It may be possible that there would be blackouts and other issues pertaining to the energy supplies. To avoid anything of this sort, the cabinet office has announced a £1.9billion cyber security programme. The government has opened its doors to private companies who can submit tenders and help them prevent cyber attacks. This is in the wake of the situation faced by the western Ukrainian electricity company, which suffered heavily due to the cyber attacks.

The government fears that similar kind of attacks are possible in Britain and therefore it has launched the cyber security programme to avoid taking any risks. For this, collaborative strategies are made by the Chancellor Philip Hammond, the cabinet and, the Foreign and Commonwealth office. A document was published by the government which made it clear that the UK’s energy network is at risk from malware.

The main points of the document are “A cyber attack on western Ukrainian electricity distribution companies Prykarpattya Oblenergo and Kyiv Oblenergo on December 23 2015 caused a major power outage, with disruption to over 50 substations on the distribution networks”.

“The region reportedly experienced a blackout for several hours and many other customers and areas sustained lesser disruptions to their power supplies, affecting more than 220,000 consumers”.
“Use of the BlackEnergy3 malware has been blamed by some for the attack, after samples were identified on the network”.

According to the office, attackers were sending phishing emails with malware to the power utility companies in Ukraine. It was a well planned move by the attackers and mails were phished six months prior to the attacks. However, experts suggest that there is no way malware could break the circuit which resulted in the outage. There are chances that malware could copy the credentials for remote controlling the network and triggering the outage.

As Ukraine cyber security breakage is the first of its kind of disruptive cyber attack on electricity network, the UK government is taking strict measures to impose excellent cyber security practices across its Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). This step is taken to prevent any kind of cyber crime on the government offices and energy networks. The government has also urged private businesses to lend a helping hand in preventing such attacks.

Chancellor Mr. Hammond said that “The UK is one of the world’s leading digital nations. Much of our prosperity now depends on our ability to secure our technology, data and networks from the many threats we face”.

“Yet cyber attacks are growing more frequent, sophisticated and damaging when they succeed. So we are taking a decisive action to protect both our economy and the privacy of UK citizens”.

“Our National Cyber Security Strategy sets out our plan to make Britain confident, capable and resilient in a fast-moving digital world”.

“Over the lifetime of this five-year strategy, we will invest £1.9billion in defending our systems and infrastructure, deterring our adversaries, and developing a whole society capability – from the biggest companies to the individual citizen”.

He suggested that the government needs a comprehensive response to deal with the situation and to prevent any kind of attacks, big or small. He said that all measures would be taken to deter such attacks through stronger defences and superior cyber skills. Addressing the private IT businesses, he said that “The new National Cyber Security Centre will provide a hub of world-class, user-friendly expertise for businesses and individuals, as well as rapid response to major incidents”.

“The Government has a clear leadership role, but we will also foster a wider commercial ecosystem, recognising where industry can innovate faster than us.” He said that the threats need to minimise to a level where it can be controlled by the digital revolution.

To sum up, Britain has one more thing to deal with and this is quite important especially when the country is taking baby steps towards forming a stable government. Private businesses need to extend their complete support to the government and help it deal with this dreadful situation.

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