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GCHQ tells businesses to bolster security over Russian cyberattack fears

·Finance Reporter, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
A woman sits at a desk in the Control Room within Government Communications Headquarters, commonly known as GCHQ, the intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the government and armed forces of the United Kingdom, based in Cheltenham. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
GCHQ warns over cyber attacks amid Ukraine tensions. Photo:Jacob King/PA Images via Getty

UK firms are being urged to check their cyber defences by spy agency GCHQ amid concerns over potential Russian cyber attacks linked to growing tensions with Ukraine.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of the UK’s signals intelligence body GCHQ, updated its guidance to UK firms and groups on Friday, and said it is investigating the recent reports of “malicious cyber incidents in Ukraine”.

"While we are unaware of any specific cyber threats to UK organisations in relation to events in Ukraine, we are monitoring the situation closely and it is vital that organisations follow the guidance to ensure they are resilient,” the NCSC’s director of operations, Paul Chichester, said.

Read more: Stock markets fall amid Russia-Ukraine war fears

The warning follows a series of cyber attacks in Ukraine, suspected to have involved Russia, which Moscow denies.

"Over several years, we have observed a pattern of malicious Russian behaviour in cyber space. Last week's incidents in Ukraine bear the hallmarks of similar Russian activity we have observed before," Chichester added.

The guidance, which is primarily aimed at larger organisations, comes after the NCSC warned businesses in the UK’s critical national infrastructure – such as energy, water supply, transportation and telecommunications – about specific vulnerabilities Russian hackers have been known to exploit.

The updated guidance encourages organisations to reduce the risk of falling victim to a cyber attack by taking “actionable” steps, which include patching systems; improving access controls and enabling multi-factor authentication; implementing an effective incident response plan; checking that backups and restoration mechanisms are working; ensuring that online defences are working as expected, and keeping up to date with the latest threat and mitigation information.

Read more: COVID drags down UK retail sales for January

Those organisations who do fall victim to a cyber attack are asked to report it to the NCSC’s incident management team.

As Russian troops amass near the border, Joe Biden has warned Ukraine’s president there is a “distinct possibility” Vladimir Putin could take military action against the country in February, as the ground freezes

Moscow has moved about 100,000 troops to Ukraine's border but denies it is planning an invasion.

Watch: Never seen before glimpse inside GCHQ

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