UK organisations urged to boost cyber attack defences amid Ukraine tensions

British organisations have been warned to bolster their digital defences due to “malicious” cyber incidents in Ukraine.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has updated its guidance to UK firms and groups and said it is is investigating the recent reports of “malicious cyber incidents in Ukraine”.

The NCSC said it had not identified any current threats to the UK, but noted its updated guidance would allow organisations “to build resilience and stay ahead of potential threats”.

The centre’s director of operations, Paul Chichester, said: “The NCSC is committed to raising awareness of evolving cyber threats and presenting actionable steps to mitigate them.

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

“While we are unaware of any specific cyber threats to UK organisations in relation to events in Ukraine, we are monitoring the situation closely and it is vital that organisations follow the guidance to ensure they are resilient.

“Over several years, we have observed a pattern of malicious Russian behaviour in cyberspace. Last week’s incidents in Ukraine bear the hallmarks of similar Russian activity we have observed before.”

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The updated guidance encourages organisations to reduce the risk of falling victim to a cyber attack by taking “actionable” steps.

These include patching systems, improving access controls and enabling multi-factor authentication, implementing an effective incident response plan, checking that backups and restore mechanisms are working, ensuring that online defences are working as expected, and keeping up to date with the latest threat and mitigation information.

Those organisations who do fall victim to a cyber attack are asked to report the incident to the NCSC’s incident management team.

Speaking to Sky News a UK minister said it is “not too late” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “de-escalate” tensions on the Ukraine border, amid international fears of an invasion.

Chris Philp, a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told Sky News: “We’re deeply concerned that the build-up of Russian troops around the Ukrainian border has reached unprecedented levels – military units from the far east of Russia have moved into that region, something that hasn’t happened for many, many years previously.

“So, I think it is a very serious situation. I think President Biden and our Prime Minister are right to warn President Putin that the consequences if they do invade Ukraine will be very, very serious indeed for Russia in terms of sanctions.

“The Americans made clear yesterday that the Nord Stream 2 pipe would not happen if they invade.

“In the United Kingdom, we are doing everything we can to to support the Ukrainians, including supplying military equipment that would help them – and training that goes with that – to prevent tanks, Russian tanks, from entering Ukrainian territory.

“We are urging Russia to get to the table, to discuss issues that are relevant and to de-escalate the situation. De-escalation is clearly in the interests of all concerned – it is not too late to de-escalate, and that is what now needs to happen.”

Yesterday Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has admitted he is “not optimistic” a Russian incursion into Ukraine can be stopped as he prepares to meet his counterpart in Moscow.