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UK Cyberattacks at Record High with Covid-19 Vaccine as Prime Target

Victoria Roberts


The National Cyber Security Centre’s Annual Review reveals that UK cyberattacks are at record numbers, with Covid-19 vaccine research as the prime target.

The National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) Annual Review has highlighted a record number of cyberattacks on UK organisations.

A number of these incidents were linked to nation state attacks, backed by Russia and China.

In the review, it is revealed that the NCSC – which is part of GCHQ – managed 777 incidents over the last twelve months, up from 723 the previous year.

Around 20% of organisations targeted were linked to the health sector and vaccines.

Health IT information, particularly regarding the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, was a major focus for the NCSC, who worked to protect the NHS and vaccine supplier IT systems from malicious domains billions of times.

In 2020, the NCSC placed healthcare as a priority for protection in the wake of the pandemic, and has channelled these resources further to avoid intelligence on the vaccine being hacked.

The growth of incidents is partially reflected by the NCSC’s ongoing work to proactively identify threats through the work of its Threat Operations and Assessment teams.


Lindy Cameron, the CEO of the NCSC, has commented: “I’m proud of the way the NCSC has responded to what has been another hugely challenging year for the country.

“The support and expertise we have provided for stakeholders from government all the way through to the general public during the pandemic has been vital.

“Continued engagement from businesses and the public provides a solid foundation for us to continue reducing the impact of online threats.”

Over the past twelve months, the NCSC has also responded to a rise in ransomware attacks, and a range of services have been provided to businesses over the past year to keep them secure.

The University of Oxford, who developed the AstraZeneca vaccine, were protected from an attempted ransomware attack as a result of implementing the NCSC’s services. This attack would have otherwise caused “significant disruption” to their research.

Services included the Early Warning Service, which alerts organisations to emerging threats, through to cyber security advice for those working in education.

These efforts seek to respond to recent significant global incidents, including the attack on the SolarWinds IT management platform by Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. This incident is said to have been one of the most serious cyber intrusions of recent times.

Sir 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.”

The report also warns that the single biggest driver of the UK’s future cyber security measures depend on how China evolves in the next decade.

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Victoria Roberts

Staff Writer

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