£37.8m will be invested to help local authorities boost their cyber resilience as part of the first ever Government Cyber Security Strategy that has been launched.
The government said this will help councils protect the essential services and data on which citizens rely on, including housing benefit, voter registration, electoral management, school grants and the provision of social care.
The new strategy aims to strengthen public services to further protect them from the risk of being shut down by hostile cyber threats.
It will also step up the country’s cyber resilience by better sharing data, expertise and capabilities to allow the government to ‘defend as one’, meaning that government cyber defence is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Statistics show that the UK is the third most targeted country in the world in cyberspace from hostile states.
Of the 777 incidents managed by the National Cyber Security Centre between September 2020 and August 2021, around 40% were aimed at the public sector.
In 2020, both Redcar and Cleveland and Hackney Councils were hit by ransomware attacks impacting council tax, benefits and housing waiting lists.
Gloucester City Council was then the subject of a further cyber-attack in 2021.
Members of the public will also be able to contribute to the effort, with a new vulnerability reporting service allowing individuals to report weaknesses in digital services.
Commenting, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Steve Barclay said:
“Our public services are precious and without them individuals can’t access the support that they rely on.
“If we want people to continue to access their pensions online, social care support from local government or health services, we need to step up our cyber defences.
“The cyber threat is clear and growing. But government is acting, investing over £2bn in cyber, retiring legacy IT systems and stepping up our skills and coordination.”
Government Chief Security Officer, Vincent Devine added:
“We need this bold and ambitious strategy to ensure that government’s critical functions are significantly hardened to cyber-attacks.
“The strategy is centred around two core pillars, the first focussing on building a strong foundation of organisational cyber security resilience and the second aimed at allowing government to ‘defend as one’, harnessing the value of sharing data, expertise and capabilities.”