Energy sector top target for cyber attacks in the UK — IBM

The 2022 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, released today by IBM, has revealed the energy sector to be the top target for cyber attacks in the UK

According to the IBM study, the UK energy sector accounted for 24% of cyber attacks, followed by manufacturing and financial services, which each received 19% of attacks.

Ongoing supply chain challenges, along with the UK energy regulator preparing to increase the cap on prices by over 50% in April, is placing pressure on the UK’s energy and manufacturing sectors.

With the cost of cyber attacks trickling down to consumers, the findings highlight the urgent need for robust cyber resilience in the nation’s critical industries.

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“Cyber criminals worldwide are becoming increasingly resilient, resourceful, and stealthy in their pursuit of critical data,” said Laurance Dine, global partner, X-Force Incident Response at IBM.

“In Europe, we saw adversaries overwhelmingly exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities to infiltrate victim environments in 2021, highlighting the importance of adopting a zero trust approach to security. Businesses must start operating under the assumption of compromise, putting the proper controls in place to defend their environment and protect critical data.

“In the UK, critical industries such as energy, manufacturing and finance are key targets for cyber criminals, underlining the importance of the government’s National Cyber Security Strategy to ensure the economy remains resilient in our fast-moving digital world.”

Simon Hepburn, CEO of the UK Cyber Security Council, commented: “IBM Security’s latest research highlights the constantly evolving nature of the global cyber threat, as adversaries seize on new vulnerabilities created by digital transformation.

“With the UK’s critical industries under constant threat, it’s imperative that the UK rapidly expands its professional cyber security workforce by investing in training and professional development opportunities. Providing pathways for people to enter the profession as career changers or graduates, as well as ensuring people from all backgrounds have access to opportunities, will be key to achieving this.”

Data theft and ransomware remaining common

Data theft was the most common attack type in the UK during 2021, according to the X-Force study, making up 31% of incidents.

Phishing, meanwhile, was overwhelmingly the top infection method used against UK businesses in 2021, leading to 63% of incidents. 

Ransomware attacks prove frequent still, with one in five cyber attacks globally, and 15% in the UK, involving the locking of computer systems until a sum of money is paid.

The REvil ransomware group was responsible for 37% of all ransomware attacks X-Force observed in 2021.

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Governmental intervention

With the UK government recently publishing its National Cyber Strategy and Government Cyber Security Strategy 2022-2030, measures are being carried out to strengthen security of critical infrastructure.

Additionally, amendments to the Network and Information Systems (NIS) regulations are being proposed, to improve the cyber resilience of UK businesses.

The Government’s latest Annual Cyber Sector Report also showed record investment in the cyber security sector last year, with revenues exceeding £10 billion.

Overall, the UK became one of the top three most attacked countries in Europe in 2021, along with Germany and Italy, according to the global report.

The full IBM X-Force report, which analysed global data ranging from network and endpoint detection devices, incident response (IR) engagements, and phishing kit tracking, from January to December 2021, can be downloaded here.