Exclusive: Cyber chiefs mull cross-government campaign to counter worldwide attacks

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, is taking the lead on developing a cross-government campaign to improve Britain's cyber security, PRWeek can reveal.

Exclusive: Cyber chiefs mull cross-government campaign to counter worldwide attacks

The new campaign is expected to launch next Easter under the government’s existing 'Cyber Aware' banner.

A major piece of research by Ipsos MORI, which will be completed by the New Year, will inform the precise direction of the campaign, including target audiences. The study of cyber security attitudes and behaviours is being conducted on behalf of the NCSC and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Details of the plan were revealed in a recent job advertisement for a head of campaigns at the NCSC, which stated: "You will help develop a single cross-HMG campaign on cyber for individuals and organisations to launch in 2019."

It added: "You will play a leading role in creating the strategy and planning a single cross-government campaign on cyber security to run from 2019-2021. You will need to build effective relationships and work as part of a virtual campaign team with colleagues from across government including the Home Office and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to design an effective campaign which will drive real behaviour change."

PRWeek understands that there is a desire within government to have one central campaign with clear messaging when it comes to dealing with cyber security.

The new campaign will be a partnership between several government departments, with the Cabinet Office and Home Office also involved.

It comes amid mounting concern over the nature of the cyber threat facing Britain.

NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin, speaking at the launch of the organisation’s 2018 annual review last week, warned that Britain can expect to suffer a catastrophic cyber attack that could result in the loss of lives.

The most serious, known as C1 attacks, are national emergencies, causing sustained disruption of essential services, leading to severe economic or social consequences, or to a loss of life, according to the NCSC.

Martin said: "I remain in little doubt we will be tested to the full, as a centre, and as a nation, by a major incident at some point in the years ahead, what we would call a Category 1 attack."

There have been 1,100 cyber attacks, most from countries seeking to harm the UK, since the NCSC was established in 2016, according to Martin.

He stressed: "We need to equip everyone in the UK with the facts and useable advice – they need to make sensible, risk-based judgments about how they behave online. So my focus, for the next phase of the NCSC, as well as being about our national security, will be about the cyber security of the citizen."

Martin added: "It’ll be about the practical message of the NCSC: not to be scared of cyber threats, but to take sensible and easy steps. And I want to make sure that message is heard loud and clear."

Last year, a global cyber-attack, in the form of ransomware programme Wannacry, swept across the world, locking computers and demanding payments for them to be unlocked. The NHS was particularly hard-hit.

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