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In the UK, cyber is categorised as a high priority risk to national security. Cyber threats come both from nation states and from criminal individuals or groups. The Government states that the lines between different threat actors continue to blur as individuals and groups learn from, hire and work with one another. Cyber threats to the UK include cyber terrorism; fraud and serious organised crime; espionage; and disruption of critical national infrastructure (CNI).

In November 2016, the Government published its five-year National Cyber Security Strategy, and made a commitment to invest £1.9 billion in cyber security. The strategy set out the Government’s implementation plan under three objectives: to defend the UK from cyber-attacks; to deter potential attackers; and to develop an innovative cyber security industry underpinned by leading scientific research and development. Cyber security of the UK’s CNI was listed as a priority. In 2016, the Government also created the National Cyber Security Centre. It supports the most critical organisations in the UK, the wider public sector, and industry.

The UK has committed to work in close collaboration with its international allies, including its partners in NATO and as a member of the EU, to improve international cyber security. In May 2018, the UK implemented the EU Networks and Information Security Directive and placed legal obligations on operators of UK critical services to improve cyber-security. The Government has said that after the UK’s exit from the EU it wants to protect its cyber cooperation with the EU.

This briefing focuses on the UK Government’s response to the global cyber threat in the context of its strategies on national security and on national cyber security. It includes an overview of the Government’s policy to improve the resilience of the UK’s CNI to cyber-attack, and measures to address the shortage in cyber security skills in that area. The last section briefly discusses NATO’s and the EU’s cyber security initiatives and the recent allegations against the Russian intelligence service.

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