A parliamentary committee report has warned the United Kingdom government is at high risk of a “catastrophic ransomware attack” that could “bring the country to a standstill,” The Guardian reports.

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy said the country is unprepared for a large-scale cyberattack on critical national infrastructure (CNI).

The Guardian reports:

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) describes the CNI as national assets that are essential for the functioning of society, including energy supply, water supply, transportation, health and telecommunications.

Recent ransomware attacks on UK public services include an attack on the NHS last year that left patient data in the hands of cyber-attackers. In 2020, Redcar and Cleveland council fell victim to a ransomware attack and was locked out of its systems for almost three weeks. One councillor said they were told it would cost between £11m and £18m to repair the damage.

The report said the government was failing to invest sufficiently to prevent large-scale cyber-attacks and criticised the Home Office, who claim the lead on ransomware as a policy issue, and former home secretary Suella Braverman, for failing to make the issue a priority.

The committee said Braverman “showed no interest in [ransomware]. Clear political priority is given instead to other issues, such as illegal migration and small boats.” The committee also noted that the UK’s CNI was reliant on private, third-party IT systems that leave them vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Future ransomware attacks could pose “a threat to physical security or safety of human life”, the report said, if cyber-attackers manage to sabotage CNI operations. The report also warned that “cyber-physical systems” could be intercepted, including hackers taking control of the steering and throttle of a shipping vessel – lab experiments have shown this to be achievable.

Per Sky News:

In its report, the JCNSS says the UK’s regulatory frameworks are insufficient and outdated, and warns that large swathes of critical national infrastructure remain vulnerable to ransomware because they rely on legacy IT systems.

It says there has been a failure to sufficiently invest in safeguards to prevent a major crisis, despite government agencies like the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warning about ransomware attacks, particularly from groups linked to Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang.

As part of its report, the committee has also called for a private briefing from the NCSC on preparations to protect Britain from cyberattack ahead of the upcoming general election citing concerns over possible interference in the democratic process.

Dame Margaret Beckett, chair of the JCNSS, said: “The UK has the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s most cyber-attacked nations.

“It is clear to the committee that the government’s investment in and response to this threat are not equally world-beating, leaving us exposed to catastrophic costs and destabilising political interference.

“In the likely event of a massive, catastrophic ransomware attack, the failure to rise to meet this challenge will rightly be seen as an inexcusable strategic failure.

The report follows a cyberattack on the United States by online hackers allegedly affiliated with China’s People’s Liberation Army.

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It’s critical to note the World Economic Forum has predicted for years that a cyber attack would cause more worldwide disruption than COVID-19.

From the WEF:

The UK report also follows the release of the Obama-produced Leave the World Behind, which describes a cyber apocalypse that renders commonly-used technology useless.

Predictive Programming? Obama-Produced Movie Describes Apocalypse Caused By Cyberattack [WATCH]

A lot of predictive programming!

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