Tough new rules to protect against cyber attacks

Broadband and mobile companies will be forced to adhere to tough new rules to help protect the UK from cyber attacks.

The new Government regulations will come into force in October and will be among the strongest in the world.

They will provide much tougher protections from cyber threats that could cause network failure or the theft of sensitive data.

The Telecommunications (Security) Act, which became law in November, gives the Government powers to boost the security standards of the UK’s mobile and broadband networks, including the electronic equipment and software at phone mast sites and in telephone exchanges that handle internet traffic and telephone calls.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “We know how damaging cyber attacks on critical infrastructure can be, and our broadband and mobile networks are central to our way of life.

“We are ramping up protections for these vital networks by introducing one of the world’s toughest telecoms security regimes which secure our communications against current and future threats.”

As things stand, telecoms providers are responsible for setting their own security standards in their networks. However, the Government’s Telecoms Supply Chain Review found providers often have little incentive to adopt the best security practices.

The new regulations and code of practice, developed with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Ofcom, set out specific actions for UK public telecoms providers to fulfil their legal duties in the Act. They will improve the UK’s cyber resilience by embedding good security practices in providers’ long-term investment decisions and the day-to-day running of their networks and services.

What providers must do

The substance of the final regulations has been confirmed by the Government following a response to a public consultation on them.

The regulations will make sure providers:

  • protect data processed by their networks and services, and secure the critical functions which allow them to be operated and managed.
  • protect software and equipment which monitor and analyse their networks and services.
  • have a deep understanding of their security risks and the ability to identify when anomalous activity is taking place with regular reporting to internal boards.
  • take account of supply chain risks, and understand and control who has the ability to access and make changes to the operation of their networks and services to enhance security.

NCSC Technical Director Ian Levy said: “We increasingly rely on our telecoms networks for our daily lives, our economy and the essential services we all use.

“These new regulations will ensure that the security and resilience of those networks, and the equipment that underpins them, is appropriate for the future.”

Ofcom will oversee, monitor and enforce the new legal duties and have the power to carry out inspections of telecoms firms’ premises and systems to ensure they’re meeting their obligations. If companies fail to meet their duties, the regulator will be able to issue fines of up to 10 per cent of turnover or, in the case of a continuing contravention, £100,000 per day.

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