West Midlands braces for Russian cyber attacks after council targeted by hackers
Authorities in the West Midlands are “bolstering their online defences” as the UK braces for cyber attacks from Russia.
West Midlands Police and Birmingham Council are following guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – part of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
The guidance states organisations should follow the advice for when the cyber threat is heightened in light of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
The NCSC said: “While the NCSC is not aware of any current specific threats to UK organisations in relation to events in and around Ukraine, there has been an historical pattern of cyber attacks on Ukraine with international consequences.”
It was reported earlier this year a cyber attack which affected Gloucester Council’s online revenue and benefits, planning and customer services was linked to Russian hackers.
A West Midlands Police spokesperson said: “We are following the advice from the NCSC, there is nothing more we can say.”
A Birmingham Council spokesperson said: “We are following all the guidelines specified by the NCSC in relation to our cyber security.”
The guidelines from the NCSC recommend:
Ensuring desktops, laptops and mobile devices as well as firmware are all patched – meaning updated to remove flaws in operating systems and programs
Asking staff to ensure that their passwords are unique to work systems and are not shared across other, non-business systems
Removing any old or unused accounts
Ensuring antivirus software is installed
Confirming backups are running correctly and that there is an offline version
Checking an incident response plan is up to date – including who has authority to make decisions out of hours
Ensuring that staff know how to report phishing emails
Removing any access that is no longer required by third party organisations and ensuring the security practices of third parties are understood
Registering for the early warning service from the NCSC so it can quickly inform the authorities of any malicious activity reported
In addition, the NCSC states: “If you have an operational security team it may be helpful to consider arrangements for extended operational hours or to put in place contingency plans to scale up operations quickly if a cyber incident occurs.
“Larger organisations will have mechanisms for assessing, testing and applying software patches at scale.
“When the threat is heightened, your organisations may wish to take a more aggressive approach to patching security vulnerabilities, accepting that this may have a service impact itself.”