A significant percentage of large businesses were hit by a cyber attack in the last year, Britain’s treasury chief Philip Hammond said Tuesday.
Hammond said cyber hackers attacked 65 percent of big businesses over the last year. The government plans to spend $2.3 billion on new facilities to counter hacking, Hammond said at the opening of such a facility in London Tuesday, but he urged businesses to “sharpen” their approach.
Hammond said increased cyber security spending would allow the U.K. to “keep up with the scale and pace of the threats we face” and “allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked.”
Cyber attacks cost British industry an estimated $42.3 billion every year, according to a report by the computer security group Veracode. Roughly $22.4 billion in these damages come from lost revenues.
Infecting industrial systems, such as power grids or factories, with malware is so simple there are five-minute YouTube tutorials on how to do it. Hackers can overwhelm network links with traffic, called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Such attacks prevent companies to communicate with their own computers, effectively causing a shutdown.
“Any modern state cannot remain secure and prosperous without securing itself in cyberspace,” Ben Gummer, a cabinet office in the same government as Hammond, told The Guardian. “That is why we are taking the decisive action needed to protect our country, our economy and our citizens.”
The U.S. power grid is vulnerable to cyber attack, which could be just as damaging as a weapon of mass destruction, according to a major Department of Energy (DOE) report.
“In the current environment, the U.S. grid faces imminent danger from cyber attacks,” reads the report. “Widespread disruption of electric service because of a transmission failure initiated by a cyber attack at various points of entry could undermine U.S. lifeline networks, critical defense infrastructure, and much of the economy; it could also endanger the health and safety of millions of citizens.”
A Freedom of Information Act request, however, revealed that hackers successfully infiltrated the DOE’s computer system more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014. The DOE was targeted 1,131 times over the same period.
Researchers backed by the National Center for Policy Analysis found the U.S. electric grid was highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks from other countries and small terrorist groups. They also determined Texas was the only state dealing with the threat since it has a self-contained power grid.
An electric industry group tied to the American government advised electrical utilities review their cyber defenses last January, according to a confidential document obtained by Reuters.
Cyber-attacks have already shut down Ukraine’s power grid using well-engineered malware called BlackEnergy, which disconnected electrical substations from the main power grid. The Ukrainian government has publicly blamed Russian-backed hackers for the attack, which left approximately 700,000 homes without power for several hours Dec. 23. Similar malware was used against Ukrainian media organizations during 2015 local elections.
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