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UK affected by 590 ‘significant’ cyber attacks in past year

Organisations targeted ranged from key national institutions to small and large businesses.

The UK has been hit by more than 500 “significant” cyber attacks in the last year, security chiefs have revealed.

Experts at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) registered 1,131 incidents in the 12 months since the organisation began work in October 2016.

Officials classed 590 of the reported incidents as significant, with more than 30 assessed serious enough to require a cross-government response.

Organisations targeted over the year ranged from key national institutions to small and large businesses.

The most high-profile episode was the global “ransomware” outbreak which affected dozens of NHS trusts in May while in June email accounts were targeted in an attack on parliamentary networks.

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How ransomware infects a computer.

NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin described the cyber threat as “large, growing and diverse” – and warned further attacks are inevitable.

He said: “Cyber security is crucial to our national security and to our prosperity.

“We’re incredibly proud of what we have achieved in our first year at the National Cyber Security Centre, bringing together some of the best cyber-security brains in the country in a single place.

“The threat remains very real and growing – further attacks will happen and there is much more for us to do to make the UK the safest place in the world to live and do business online. ”

The NCSC, which is part of intelligence agency GCHQ, was established to spearhead efforts to counter the mounting danger from cyber-criminals and hostile states.

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The threats to the UK are evolving rapidly as technology advances, experts have warned (Yui Mok/PA)

In a report published on Tuesday, the centre sets out its activity in its first year and summarises the shape of the current threat.

It says: “There are now more devices connected to the internet than there are people in the world and with the growth of our dependence on technology comes an increased risk.

“Despite the NCSC’s best work in defending the country from that threat, we can’t prevent every attack.”

As well as managing hundreds of incidents, the NCSC has prevented thousands of attacks through its active cyber defence programme while tens of millions of suspicious communications are being blocked every month under a partnership with the private sector.

GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming said: “The threats to the UK are evolving rapidly as technology advances. Our response has been to transform to stay ahead of them.

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(John Stillwell/PA)

“The NCSC is a pivotal part of that transformation.

“It is a critical component not only of GCHQ, where it benefits from the data and expertise it has access to as part of the intelligence community, but of how the government as a whole works to keep the UK safe.”

Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “The National Cyber Security Centre is doing a crucial job in providing world-class expertise and rapid response in the face of cyber threats that are increasing in volume and sophistication.

“We are determined to tackle these threats and that is why we are investing £1.9 billion to support the national cyber security strategy to deter adversaries, boost the UK’s resilience and protect our citizens, organisations and infrastructure.”

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