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Cyber Resilience

Volume 711: debated on Thursday 31 March 2022

12. What steps the Government is taking to strengthen domestic cyber resilience against potential impacts from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (906428)

Our new national Government cyber security strategy sets out our approach to making the UK more resilient to cyber attacks and countering cyber threats. We have undertaken significant outreach within the Government and critical national infrastructure, including with the UK devolved Administrations, to provide mitigating advice to bolster UK preparedness.

I am grateful for that answer. We know that Russian-sourced cyber attacks rose by 800% in the 48 hours immediately after Putin’s renewed attack on Ukraine. As his ground war falters, we can expect cyber warfare to be ramped up even more. I understand that EU countries are establishing a cyber security fund to protect civil society and the private sector against Russian attacks, so what steps are the Government taking to help civil society and the private sector to protect themselves?

We have set out a range of measures as part of our whole of Government, whole of society approach. That was the essence of the cyber strategy that we launched before Christmas. It includes working with local authorities, which have been particular victims, and takes on board the lessons from, for example, the attack on the Irish health system. It includes looking at regulation and helping with procurement so that products fit for cyber risk are bought. It has a particular focus on skills, with areas such as the north-west having a cyber corridor where we have, as part of our levelling-up work, a real focus on getting the cyber skills we need across all parts of the UK.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a wake-up call for everyone in this country. We are under threat of cyber attack every single day. What lessons have the Government learned from the invasion to prevent cyber attacks on our schools, education, transport system and all the things that we rely on every day?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Before the Russian invasion, the rationale for the national cyber strategy that we launched in December was to make the UK more resilient. As we have just discussed, that requires a whole of society approach, but it also requires specific action within Government, which is why I launched the further Government cyber strategy, working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, which is a world leader in its field.

The Prime Minister says that he is serious about eradicating Russian influence from our country, yet his Government have sat on their hands for two years, with the majority of recommendations of the Russia report still yet to be implemented. On cyber security, the Russia report exposed the complete lack of accountability within and across Government Departments when it comes to cyber matters. New legislation has only made lines of responsibility more confusing. We are vulnerable. The National Cyber Security Centre has managed an unprecedented 777 cyber incidents over the last 12 months, up from 723 the previous year, with 40% aimed at the public sector. Either the Government are not taking the Russian cyber threat seriously, or the Minister does not have control of his own Department. Which is it?

There is consensus across the House on the need for a whole of society approach on cyber. On the charge that the Government have sat on their hands, the fact that we launched the cyber strategy before the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out shows that that is not correct. Looking at the spending review, there is a significant uplift in funding for the National Cyber Force, which I visited in the north-west. Councils such as Preston, which you will be familiar with, Mr Speaker, are heavily engaged in terms of the skills agenda for the NCF. A huge amount of work has been done on that.

In terms of the wider Opposition charge that the Government are sitting on their hands, one need only look at what President Zelensky has said about the Prime Minister’s response, the military support, the sanctions support, the bilateral aid––where the UK has been a leader––and the work to ramp up our response on refugees. If the Opposition are unhappy with what President Zelensky has said, then look at what the Russian Government have said about the way in which the Prime Minister has been at the front of the pack in ensuring a united western response.