Editorial

Firms could face £17m official cybersecurity fines

Though fines would be a last resort and will not apply to operators which have assessed the risks adequately, taken appropriate security measures and engaged with regulators – but still suffered an attack

Posted 29 January 2018 by

The government says it’s time to get serious with cybersecurity laxness – and so has raised the stakes considerably with its weekend announcement that fines of up to £17m are now on the table for slackers.
The National Cyber Security Centre’s tough new guidance for industry does go onto say that’s only for energy, transport, water and health firms would be liable for such swingeing punishment “if they fail to have the most robust safeguards in place against cyber attack”.
However, it also states that fines would be a last resort and will not apply to operators which have assessed the risks adequately, taken appropriate security measures and engaged with regulators but still suffered an attack.
In parallel, new regulators will be able to assess critical industries to make sure plans are as robust as possible and we’re promised “a simple, straightforward reporting system” will be set up to make it easy to report cyber breaches and IT failures so they can be quickly identified and acted upon.
Other threats affecting IT, such as power outages, hardware failures and environmental hazards will also be covered by the new Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive (the UK’s version of EU security directives).
Such incidents would have to be reported to the regulator who would assess whether appropriate security measures were in place – and the regulator will have the power to issue legally-binding instructions to improve security, and – if appropriate – impose financial penalties.
“We want our essential services and infrastructure to be primed and ready to tackle cyber attacks and be resilient against major disruption to services,” said Margot James, the new Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries.
“I encourage all public and private operators in these essential sectors to take action now and consult NCSC’s advice on how they can improve their cyber security.”
“Network and information systems give critical support to everyday activities, so it is absolutely vital that they are as secure as possible,” added National Cyber Security Centre CEO Ciaran Martin.
The new measures follow the consultation held last year by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport seeking views from industry on how to implement the Directive, which comes into force on May 10 this year.