Cyber spooks tackled more than 650 attacks against the UK in just 12 months – including from rogue states, it can be revealed today.
The National Cyber Security Centre said it “defended” the country from 658 web assaults in the year to August.
The toll, disclosed in its 94-page annual review, brings to almost 1,800 the total number of incidents dealt with by the NCSC since it was created in 2016 as part of the Government’s eavesdropping post, GCHQ.
They included exposing a campaign by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, of “indiscriminate and reckless cyber attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport”.
Publishing the annual report, NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin said: “This review gives a real insight into the breadth of outstanding work done by the NCSC and underlines why we are a world leader in cyber security.
“From handling more than 600 incidents – many from hostile nation states – to equipping the public with the tools they need to stay safe online, we are employing our expertise on a number of fronts.
“I am proud to lead this organisation and optimistic that, in a constantly evolving landscape, we can help make this the safest country to live and work online.”
The centre trumpeted its “active cyber defence” programme which, it says, stops millions of cyber attacks being staged.
The scheme’s “takedown service” uncovers malicious sites and orders the host to remove them.
Some 177,335 of phishing URLs found to be malicious were removed – with 62.4% stripped down in the first hour.
Today’s report also reveals the existence of Operation Haulster to combat credit card fraud.
The report says: “The NCSC’s pioneering Haulster operation has disrupted financial cyber crime by flagging fraudulent intention against more than one million stolen credit cards.
“It is in the process of scaling this operation, and hope to reduce considerably more attacks in the near future.
“Increasingly, criminal groups are using criminal marketplaces in cyberspace to buy and sell personal information and credit card details.
“Haulster takes stolen credit cards collected by the NCSC and partners, then, working with UK Finance, repatriates them to banks, often before they are ever used for crime.
“Card providers are then able to block cards to protect both financial institutions and the public.
“In most cases, this has been done before a crime has taken place, meaning hundreds of thousands of victims of high-end cyber crime were protected before they lost a penny.”
NCSC meets UK political parties every three months and regularly gives cyber security advice to MPs and peers.
During this year’s local and European elections, its experts provided parties with guidance on risks and advice on protecting people and systems from potential attacks.
The vulnerability of Britain to cyber attacks was highlighted in May 2017 when the UK was among nations targeted in the WannaCry malware attack which clobbered hospitals, businesses and banks.
It led to 7,000 NHS appointments being cancelled.
The US and UK governments blamed North Korea for the web assault, which hit more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, causing billions of dollars of damage.
The following month the Ukraine was hit by the “malicious” NotPetya hack, which Russia’s military was allegedly behind.
Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said last night: “I very much welcome the achievements laid out in this annual review which shows that we are making the UK a more challenging place for our cyber adversaries to operate in.”