'Alphabet soup' of agencies leave UK exposed to cyber attacks: report

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2017 10:38 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's government has taken too long to coordinate an "alphabet soup" of agencies tasked with protecting the country from an ever-increasing risk of cyber attack, a parliamentary report said on Friday.

The Public Accounts Committee report said that as of last April there were at least 12 separate organizations in Britain responsible for protecting information, with "several lines of accountability with little coherence between them."

Processes for recording breaches of personal data by government departments are inconsistent and chaotic, the report said, adding that the government is struggling to meet a skills gap in the security profession.

The findings come in the wake of a spate of cyber attacks that have targeted banks, businesses and institutions, including Tesco Bank, Lloyd's Bank, Talk-Talk, and the National Health Service.

"The threat of cyber-crime is ever-growing yet evidence shows Britain ranks below Brazil, South Africa and China in keeping phones and laptops secure," said committee chair Meg Hillier.

"Leadership from the center is inadequate and, while the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has the potential to address this, practical aspects of its role must be clarified quickly."

The NCSC was established by the government last October as part of a 1.9 billion-pound ($2.37 billion) program to tighten cyber security.

An NCSC spokesman said in response to the report: "The government has been clear that the newly formed NCSC is the UK's definitive authority on cyber security."

On Thursday night, British defense minister Michael Fallon said Russian president Vladimir Putin was trying to undermine the West by spreading lies and attacking critical infrastructure with hackers.

The Kremlin called the accusation baseless.

Britain launched a cyber security review in January after U.S. intelligence agencies said Putin ordered an effort to help President Donald Trump's electoral chances by discrediting his rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho)