Local authorities and emergency services told to check ‘cyber fitness’

David Lidington will appear at the second day of the annual CYBERUK security conference Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Vulnerable local authorities, emergency services and small businesses are being urged to beef up their online defences by using a new cyber fitness tool to better prepare for potentially crippling attacks.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s de-facto deputy David Lidington will announce the new initiative on Thursday, stressing the importance of making the UK one of the safest places to be online in the world.

The free tool, known as the Exercise in a Box, will provide users with a range of real-life scenarios based on common cyber threats facing the country, in a bid to prevent a repeat of disruptive attacks such as WannaCry which hit parts of the NHS in May 2017.

Designed by experts at the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre), organisations can carry out exercises to test their response to threats, choosing from a technical simulation and table top discussion, while keeping track of their progress.

“The NCSC considers exercising to be one of the most cost-effective ways an organisation can test how it responds to cyber incidents,” said NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin.

“By practising your defence and response mechanisms, you can understand how effective they really are and where there are areas for improvement.

“We’re committed to building the UK’s cyber resilience and continuing our work to make the country the hardest possible target for our adversaries.”

Mr Lidington will appear at the second day of the annual CYBERUK security conference in Glasgow, where specialists from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance met yesterday to discuss cyber threats, amid questions about Chinese telecoms giant Huawei’s possible involvement in building Britain’s new 5G network.

“Improved cyber security is a key part of the Government’s plan to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online,” the Cabinet Office minister said.

“This new free online tool will be critical in toughening the cyber defences of small businesses, local government, and other public and private sector organisations.”