The UK government has issued a warning regarding the potential for severe cyber-attacks on critical national infrastructure. The recently released National Risk Register 2023 highlights the looming threat and discusses both malicious and non-malicious risks that could impact the nation.
Based on the government’s internal National Security Risk Assessment, the report reveals a concerning 5-25% chance of a significant cyber attack occurring within the next two years. This assessment acknowledges that cyber attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and can cause substantial harm to various sectors of the economy.
The report identifies several targets that could be vulnerable to cyber attacks, including gas infrastructure, electricity infrastructure, civil nuclear facilities, fuel supply infrastructure, government institutions, health and social care systems, the transport sector, and telecommunications systems. It also warns of potential cyber threats from state actors targeting UK financial infrastructure.
Predicted attacks typically involve the manipulation, theft, or destruction of critical data required for the operation of vital systems. Additionally, attacks on governmental systems carry the risk of undermining public trust and interfering with elections.
The report introduces a new dimension of concern by highlighting artificial intelligence (AI) as a “chronic risk.” It notes that AI poses continuous challenges that can impact the economy, society, and national security. This is the first time AI has been featured as a strategic risk in the National Risk Register, and the government plans to hold a global summit to address AI safety.
While the report is comprehensive, some critics have expressed concerns about the lack of detail in evaluating AI risks. Opposition MP Darren Jones has suggested the establishment of an AI sub-committee within the national security council to monitor AI-related risks.
Despite criticisms, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden praised the report as the most comprehensive risk assessment ever published. He emphasised that the insights provided will enable the government and its partners to establish robust plans and responses to ensure national safety.
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