- The UK warns of looming cyber-attacks on critical national infrastructure.
- There is a 5–25% chance of a major cyber attack within the next 2 years.
- Cyber attacks have become sophisticated and can cause harm the economy.
- Report finds AI as a “chronic risk” with risks that impact national security.
- Government plans to convene a global summit to address AI safety.
The UK government has warned about the looming threat of severe cyber attacks on critical national infrastructure in its recently released National Risk Register 2023. This comprehensive report, which covers both malicious and non-malicious risks, paints a worrisome picture of the nation’s potential cyber threats.
The assessment, based on the government’s internal National Security Risk Assessment, reveals that there is a concerning 5–25% chance of a significant cyber attack on vital infrastructure occurring within the next two years.
The report emphasizes that the risk of cyber attacks has become increasingly sophisticated and can cause substantial harm to various sectors of the economy. Specifically, the report identifies a range of targets that could be vulnerable to cyber attacks. These include gas infrastructure, electricity infrastructure, civil nuclear facilities, fuel supply infrastructure, government institutions, health and social care systems, the transport sector, and telecommunications systems.
Moreover, it highlights potential cyber threats from state actors targeting the UK financial infrastructure, including a retail bank.
The predicted attacks, in most cases, involve the manipulation, theft, or destruction of data critical to the operation of vital systems. For governmental attacks, there’s an additional risk of undermining public trust and interfering with elections.
Furthermore, the report (PDF) introduces a new dimension of concern by flagging artificial intelligence (AI) as a “chronic risk.” It notes that AI poses continuous challenges that can impact the economy, society, and national security.
This edition of the National Risk Register also marks the first time that AI has been featured as a strategic risk for the UK. The government acknowledges the far-reaching implications of AI, including the potential for increased misinformation and a decline in economic competitiveness. Consequently, the government plans to convene a global summit to address AI safety.
Despite the comprehensive nature of the report, some critics have expressed concerns about the lack of detail in evaluating AI risks. Opposition MP Darren Jones criticized the report for only briefly mentioning AI and accused ministers of lacking a concrete plan to address its dangers. Jones suggested establishing an AI sub-committee within the national security council to monitor AI-related risks.
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, however, lauded the report as the most comprehensive risk assessment ever published. He emphasized that the insights provided by the assessment will enable the government and its partners to establish robust plans and responses to ensure national safety.
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