London exposed to Putin: Shocking data shows Sadiq Khan unprepared for Russian attack

Gavin Williamson: NATO together against Russia cyberattacks

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The Kremlin has been accused of several cyber attacks in recent weeks, not least on Ukraine, but also on the West. Cyber crime can take many forms, including spying malware, hacks that access sensitive data or ransomware that encrypts files for extortion purposes. Cyber insurance is a type of policy that covers organisations in the event that their computer systems and digital defences are successfully breached by an attack. In a worst-case scenario, it can help repair, upgrade or replace compromised computer systems, pay for an investigation into the cyber crime, recover lost data and cover the cost of damages.

London’s apparent lack of insurance policies have been revealed by a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests filed by data protection firm ProLion with London’s 32 borough councils, as well as the City of London Corporation, as to whether they had a cyber insurance policy to support them.

Of these bodies, 17 reported having no such insurance policy, eight provided responses that were ambiguous and three did not respond to the FOI requests at all.

The remaining five councils, meanwhile, refused to answer the question, citing an exemption in the FOI act against disclosing information that might potentially “prejudice the prevention or detection of crime”.

Reasons given included the suggestion that disclosing details would give cybercriminals insight into possible vulnerabilities or increase the risk of an attack against those most vulnerable.

ProLion vice president Steve Arlin said: “Ransomware attacks have continued to rapidly grow both in frequency and sophistication.

“The situation demanded action a long time ago, and the issue is now so large that organisations can’t afford to be reactive in their approach to cybersecurity.”

While organisations of all sizes and sectors can provide attractive targets for cybercriminals, those in the public sector often have access to more sensitive data — such as medical records, financial information and assorted forms of tax record.

This, the experts explained, makes them the ideal quarry, as the nature of the information they handle can be better leveraged to ensure any ransom demands are met.

In fact, according to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, nearly half of all recorded cyber attacks between September 2020 and August 2021 were against the public sector.

And October 2020 saw east London’s Hackney Borough Council hit by a severe ransomware attack which took many of its systems and services offline, caused on-going issues for months and cost the council millions of pounds to address.

Mr Arlin added: “Ransomware brings with it a risk of reputational damage, productivity losses, and of course the cost of paying the ransom.

“But for an organisation such as a borough council, the risk of large volumes of sensitive personal data falling into the wrong hands means that it could face huge UK GDPR related fines as a result.

“Furthermore, the rise in staff working from home remotely means there are new risks to consider. If not managed correctly, remote working can open the door to an insider threat.

“It only takes one click by an employee to infect an entire network.”

Organisations at risk from cyberattack are encouraged to invest in multiple layers of protection, Mr Arlin explained.

This can start with training for staff — allowing them to better recognise common threats such as phishing attacks — and extend to digital defences such as firewalls and two-factor authentication setups to protect system access.

Mr Arlin added: “It’s also wise to invest in the latest file protection solutions, as these can automatically block known ransomware signatures and files that have not been approved, while simultaneously monitoring users for any unusual behaviour.

“This is a vital final layer of cyber defence if all other security solutions fail.”

A spokesperson for one of the councils said: “We have discovered the cyber insurance market remains very challenging and therefore difficult to obtain competitive quotations.

“We are currently looking at both insurance and a cyber consultancy review, including self-assessments as a solution to our cyber risks.”

Mr Arlin responded: “It’s no secret that a rise in ransomware attacks has brought on an increase in the price of cyber insurance in recent years.

“In fact, Sophos’ 2021 Guide to Cyber Insurance revealed that the average cost of cyber insurance has increased by 32 percent.

“The cyber insurance market is evolving at an extraordinary speed to keep pace with the growing volume and developing sophistication of attacks.”

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Express.co.uk has contacted the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to find out more about plans to prevent potential hacks from the likes of Russia.

It comes after the Foreign Office was a ‘target of a serious cyber security incident’, according to a document published apparently by mistake.

The public tender document, which was put on the Foreign Office’s website on Friday, did not outline what happened or who carried it out but stated there was “urgent support” required to “support remediation and investigation”.

It added that cyber-security firm BAE Systems Applied Intelligence was called to deal with the hacking attack and received more than £467,000 for its work.

It comes after Mr Khan said London is well prepared in the “remote” event of Russia launching a nuclear strike on the capital.

A spokesperson said: “This is dangerous rhetoric and irresponsible posturing from Putin. As the government has already made clear, any risk of nuclear conflict remains remote and we remain united in deterring the most extreme acts of aggression against us and our NATO allies.

“London has a resilient and well-established system in place to ensure key agencies work closely and effectively together to keep us all safe – this includes keeping Londoners fully informed about any emergencies.”

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