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MPs see risk to critical infrastructure as top threat

A majority of MPs are concerned about the cyber threat to critical national infrastructure, a survey has revealed

Nearly two-thirds of MPs polled consider the compromise of critical national infrastructure to be the biggest cyber threat to the UK, a YouGov survey commissioned by NCC Group has found.

However, a year on from the cyber attack on parliamentary emails, the survey of MPs in the House of Commons also revealed that opinion is divided about other cyber threats.

The results of the survey came just days after the commander of Britain’s Joint Forces Command warned that UK traffic control systems and other critical infrastructure could be targeted by cyber adversaries – but industry experts say this is nothing new and something organisations should be preparing for.

The survey polled MPs on a range of topics, including their personal cyber security, the cyber risks associated with national security and societal wellbeing, and the consequences of a successful attack on Parliament.

The survey polled 100 MPs (40 Conservative MPs, 50 Labour MPs and 10 Scottish National Party and other MPs) between 15 and 29 May 2018.

Despite 62% of MPs across all regions agreeing that a compromise of critical infrastructure was the biggest cyber risk (70% of Conservatives and 57% of Labour MPs), 42% of Conservatives considered a compromise of nuclear capabilities to be one of the top two threats, compared with just 14% of Labour MPs, while 44% of Labour MPs considered democratic interference to be a significant threat, compared with just 16% of Conservative MPs.

The survey found that 75% of all MPs were concerned that a breach of their personal email could negatively affect the cyber security of the House of Commons, highlighting that most MPs understand the crucial role they personally play in enhancing the UK Parliament’s security posture.

It was also revealed that, in the event of a successful cyber attack, 73% of all MPs considered the breach of constituents’ privacy to be their biggest concern, alongside a leak of sensitive information relating to parliamentary business (46%).

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These results were released ahead of a meeting at the House of Commons that will address the cyber threats challenging the UK political landscape and outline how MPs can best contribute to tackling this growing threat.

“It’s very positive to see that a majority of MPs are aware of the different threats we face and realise the gravitas of a successful attack, particularly with regards to our resilience as a nation,” said Ollie Whitehouse, global chief technical officer at NCC Group.

“In recent years, the government has been proactive in implementing initiatives to strengthen the UK’s stance against evolving technical and geopolitical threats which attempt to compromise the integrity of our nations.

“MPs play a significant role in these initiatives, so it’s important to maintain continued education around modern threats and informed dialogue among all stakeholders. This will ensure that parliamentary staff at all levels understand the steps they need to take, in both their professional and personal lives, to address cyber risk head-on,” he said. 

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