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Cyber attacks surged in 2021 with vaccine supply chain targeted

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has said it has defended the UK from a record number of cyber attacks in the last year including those targeted at Covid-19 vaccine research, distribution, and supply chains.

The agency, which is a part of GCHQ, released its annual report showing that it dealt with an unprecedented 777 incidents over the last 12 months – up from 723 the previous year – with around 20 per cent of organisations supported linked to the health sector and vaccines.

The health sector and in particular the vaccine rollout was a major focus for the NCSC, as it was forced to tackle threats levied against the NHS, healthcare, and vaccine supplier IT systems from malicious domains billions of times.

Over the past 12 months, the NCSC also responded to a rise in ransomware attacks. A range of services have been provided to businesses over the past year to help protect them from ransomware including the Early Warning Service alerting organisations to emerging threats and cyber-security advice for those working in education.

Last year, cyber criminals took advantage of the surge in home working and people moving to online services due to the pandemic. The City of London Police reported that the first month of lockdown saw a 72 per cent surge in financial losses from cyber-crime.

There have also been a number of significant global incidents in recent months, including the attack on the SolarWinds IT management platform by Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service – one of the most serious cyber intrusions of recent times – and a major ransomware attack on the American software firm Kaseya.

Lindy Cameron, CEO of the NCSC, said it had been another “hugely challenging year” for the UK.

“Undoubtedly there are challenges ahead, but the upcoming National Cyber Strategy combined with the continued engagement from businesses and the public provides a solid foundation for us to continue reducing the impact of online threats,” she added.

Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ, said: “This year we have seen countless examples of cyber-security threats: from state-sponsored activity to criminal ransomware attacks. It all serves to remind us that what happens online doesn’t stay online – there are real consequences of virtual activity.”

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