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Cyber Threats to Public Institutions and Services

Volume 748: debated on Thursday 25 April 2024

3. What steps his Department is taking to protect public institutions and services from cyber threats. (902480)

8. What steps his Department is taking to protect public institutions and services from cyber threats. (902493)

The cyber threat facing the United Kingdom is intensifying. State and non-state actors have targeted our critical national infrastructure, our businesses and even our democratic institutions. The Government have introduced a new national cyber strategy, which takes a whole-of-society approach. We have set out high standards of cyber-protection for our critical industries and, with the help of our world-leading agencies, we are offering advice to institutions, businesses and individuals on protecting themselves online.

Cyber-security is crucial not only to our defence sector but to others, including finance, energy and retail. Sector leaders have raised fears about the future supply of cyber professionals. There is some brilliant work taking place at Ebbw Vale College in my constituency—pioneering stuff is going on around cyber-security—but can the Deputy Prime Minister say what is being done to onshore these critical roles to protect our economy from attacks by hostile actors?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this issue. We have tremendous strengths in national cyber-security, and there are many relevant institutions around the country. I have visited universities in Wales that are churning out brilliant graduates. We need to do more at secondary school level to encourage more children to get involved in cyber-security, because the demand is only going to increase in the months and years ahead, and I have been engaging with the Education Secretary on precisely this point.

We have all seen in recent weeks how weak cyber-security can compromise elected representatives and lead to the extraction of often compromising information. Could the Minister update the House on what he is doing to provide support and technology specifically to elected representatives to make sure that this does not happen in the future?

This is an important issue, which is why we established the National Cyber Security Centre. It brings together Government Communications Headquarters expertise with that of the Cabinet Office, the Foreign Office and others. Through the National Cyber Security Centre, we work with the House authorities and others to make sure that they have sufficient and appropriate advice, but also to advise on equipment and the general security of Members of Parliament. If they have concerns about their cyber-security, I would urge them either to get in contact directly with the National Security Cyber Centre or to do so through the relevant House authorities.

The Secretary of State is right to say that the threat is intensifying. Late last year, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy urged the Government to offer more active support on cyber-security to local authorities. He may be aware that last month my own local authority, Leicester City Council, suffered a hugely sophisticated attack, which disrupted many local authority services and has hugely inconvenienced many of my constituents, who rely on those services. Given that we are seeing more of these ransomware group attacks on public institutions across the world and that he says, rightly, that the threat is intensifying, what urgent support and guidance is he offering local councils, such as mine in Leicester?

Specifically in relation to the hon. Gentleman’s local authority, I have been briefed by the National Cyber Security Centre on that incident. He is totally right to say it is a significant and serious incident, and we are working on remediation through the National Cyber Security Centre. To prevent this type of attack from happening in the first place, we invested £2.6 billion in the national cyber strategy, which is about improving cyber-resilience and reducing legacy technology. I have been quite open with the House in saying that the threat is intensifying because we see hostile states creating environments in which cyber-criminals can flourish, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of those hostile states. We are working through our intelligence agencies and the National Cyber Security Centre to continuously improve our performance.