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Government to fine companies with poor cyber security up to £17m

Image credit: DT

The companies behind Britain’s most critical industries are being warned to boost cyber security or face hefty fines for leaving themselves vulnerable to attack.

Energy, transport, water and health firms could be fined up to £17m if they fail to have the most robust safeguards in place against cyber-attack.

The move comes after Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson warned Russia could cause “thousands and thousands and thousands” of deaths in an attack on Britain’s energy supply, speculating the threat could come from a cyber-attack, undersea activity or a missile. 

It follows the WannaCry ransomware attack which crippled parts of the NHS, which Britain blamed on the shadowy North Korean cyber-crime syndicate known as the Lazarus Group. 

The threat of fines will also cover other threats affecting IT such as power outages, hardware failures and environmental hazards.

Under the new measures recent cyber breaches including WannaCry and high profile systems failures would be covered by the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive.

These incidents would have to be reported to the regulator who would assess whether appropriate security measures were in place. The regulator will have the power to issue legally-binding instructions to improve security, and – if appropriate – impose financial penalties.

Digital Minister Margot James said a simple, straightforward reporting system will be set up to make it easy to report cyber breaches and IT failures so they can be quickly identified and dealt with.

“Today we are setting out new and robust cyber security measures to help ensure the UK is the safest place in the world to live and be online,” James said.

“We want our essential services and infrastructure to be primed and ready to tackle cyber attacks and be resilient against major disruption to services.

“I encourage all public and private operators in these essential sectors to take action now and consult the National Cyber Security Centre’s advice on how they can improve their cyber security.”

NCSC CEO Ciaran Martin said: “Our new guidance will give clear advice on what organisations need to do to implement essential cyber security measures.

“Network and information systems give critical support to everyday activities, so it is absolutely vital that they are as secure as possible.”

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