Enhanced cyber attack defence '˜more critical than ever'

Britain's defences against cyber attacks are more critical than ever as the vast majority of the population use online services, a senior security official has said.

The new centre will boost the UK's defences against cyber attacks

In her first interview, Alison Whitney, deputy director for digital services at the new National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), highlighted its importance in an era when millions log on as part of their everyday lives.

She said the facility’s official unveiling yesterday ­represents a “really significant” moment.

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It will play a crucial role in efforts to make the UK the ­safest place to “live and do business online”, she said.

The official opening of the NCSC by the Queen comes amid mounting concern over the damage state-sponsored hackers or terrorists could inflict on the economy and infrastructure.

It was revealed at the weekend that Britain’s national security is threatened by dozens of cyber attacks every month, with assailants attempting to steal secrets from the heart of government.

Speaking at the launch, Chancellor Philip Hammond warned that cyber attacks are increasing in frequency and sophistication, and urge business to “sharpen its approach”.

Ms Whitney said cyber is in the “top tier” of national security threats.

She said: “There are terrorist groups that have an intent when it comes to cyber attacks, but they don’t have the capability.”

The scale of cyber crime has been laid bare by official figures showing there are about two million computer misuse offences a year.

Ms Whitney said: “We do so much business online. Every citizen in the United Kingdom, pretty much, is accessing some service online, be it just things like internet shopping or more and more the kinds of service that we get from government.

“Making sure that we can do that securely is more and more important to everybody in the UK.

“That’s really what the NCSC is here to do. We say and we really do mean that we are here to make the UK the safest place to do business and to live online.”

The NCSC, part of intelligence agency GCHQ, will use the new central London office as its operational nerve centre.

Ms Whitney said it will give more “ease of accessibility” and help ensure greater collaboration.

She said: “I do think this is the ceremonial start of showing how we are doing things really, really differently. I really think it is a step change in the way that we’ve done cyber security as a country.”