One in four public sector organisations ill-prepared for cyber-attack

Nearly one in four (23%) public sector organisations in the UK are unprepared for a cyber-attack, according to the Advanced Trends Report 2017. The new findings will come as a shock given the scale of disruption that the WannaCry attack brought to the NHS.

The national survey of over 1,000 professionals in UK organisations* is the second to be commissioned by British software and services company Advanced. Like the first report, it reveals how organisations are grappling with a changing business and societal landscape that includes increased cyber security threats, Brexit and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“WannaCry caused massive disruption in the public sector, perhaps unnecessarily after a new government report has found the NHS attack could have been avoided,” said Nick Wilson, Managing Director – Public Sector, Health & Care, at Advanced. “But an alarming number of organisations are still ill-prepared six months on. Our research shows a marked improvement (18%) when compared to last year’s results (28% were not ready for a cyber-attack in 2016). However, in this digital era, it’s critical every single organisation makes data security a top priority and indeed a deciding factor when adopting new technology.”

Tom Thackray, CBI Director for Innovation, added: “Without strengthened efforts to improve cyber security the undoubted potential of the UK’s digital economy will be unfulfilled. Cyber resilience is increasingly important for all companies across the economy. They must continue to move from awareness to action, by ensuring cyber security is a board level priority and making the right investments for their digital future.”

When asked about which technology public sector organisations are actively using, 67% say they are investing in Cloud-based systems (a 7% increase from last year). Some are still in the decision-making process, with a separate Advanced report revealing that 33% are looking or planning to adopt Cloud technology in the near future.

Plans have been made to help with the digital transformation of public services, of which the Cloud is fundamental. The Government Transformation Strategy for example, which launched in January this year, intends to make some of the most high volume services ‘digital by default’. It’s been hailed as the most ambitious programme of change of any government in the world – which may explain why the public sector has little confidence, especially in terms of funding and budgets. The Trends Survey found that 81% of organisations don’t think the Government has provided enough budget to implement the digital agenda.

Nick adds: “The Government’s plans are ambitious but it now needs to step up its investment. Public sector organisations can’t run the risk of being held back in the digital era. The fact the WannaCry attack on the NHS was largely down to an outdated IT network shows that technology needs to be taken more seriously. The Government has a mammoth task on its hands, and it will need to work with trusted third party experts to help deliver a digital-first public service with the security and longevity to match.”

Julian David, techUK’s CEO, concludes: “It’s no longer a question of whether or not your company will experience a cyber-attack, but rather when it will be attacked. That is why it is so important that cyber security is a top level priority for organisations, from the boardroom down. Organisations that prioritise security can confidently adopt new technologies, from cloud to IoT to AI, which facilitate innovation and help them grow their businesses.”

The survey also revealed how the potential repercussions of Brexit are leaving a sour taste, with well over half (60%) of organisations seeing Brexit as a threat and 51% admitting they are not prepared for any post-Brexit budget cuts. The public sector relies on the EU single market for talent mobility and is likely to feel a strong impact when Britain leaves the EU.

The Advanced Trends Survey was carried out online in September 2017. The full Advanced Trends Report 2017 can be found

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