The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it defended the UK from 723 cyber incidents in the last year.
In its fourth annual review, the NCSC outlined its efforts to fight cyberattacks during the pandemic. It said it handled a record number of incidents between September 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020, with around 200 related to coronavirus.
The review noted that the NSCS scanned more than one million NHS IP addresses for vulnerabilities. This lead to the detection of 51,000 indicators of compromise. It also said it worked with international allies to raise awareness of the threat of vaccine research targeting.
Figures from August show NHS staff have been hit with a total 43,108 scam emails during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The NCSC and the City of London Police also launched the Suspicious Email Reporting Service, which received 2.3 million reports from the public in its first four months. This, it said, resulted in thousands of malicious websites being taken down.
“From handling hundreds of incidents to protecting our democratic institutions and keeping people safe while working remotely, our expertise has delivered across multiple frontiers,” said Lindy Cameron, chief executive of the NCSC.
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Elsewhere, the review noted that the NCSC handled more than three times as many ransomware incidents compared to last year.
Research shows that local government bodies are the most likely target for ransomware attacks.
Alongside this rise, there has also been a marked shift in the way criminals carry out these attacks. Traditionally, victims are denied access to their own data until a ransom is paid, however attackers are increasingly threatening to leak sensitive information publicly until payment is received.
The NCSC also pointed to its role in “securing the UK’s telecoms networks”. This included the organisation’s role in the Government’s decision to remove Huawei from the UK’s 5G network by the end of 2027. This came after an NCSC review on the impact of US sanctions imposed on the company in May.
The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, the Paymaster General, said: “It is vital that cybersecurity remains a priority for government, industry and the public in building UK resilience to a spectrum of risks.”