Sheffield Council on alert for cyber attacks as criminals hold local authorities to ransom

Cyber criminals are becoming cleverer and more sophisticated with their attacks on local authorities, and Sheffield Council has warned that cyber security is an “ever-present risk.”

Monday, 30th November 2020, 4:45 pm

The likelihood of an attack is considered high by experts as hackers constantly become more elaborate.

New threats continue to develop, including the potential for state sponsored cyber-attacks, and the impact can be very high. Since 2016 councils have been given Government advice that it’s a national threat.

Council director Mark Gannon told a scrutiny meeting: “It’s a very complex area and it intersects all services in different ways.

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The likelihood of a cyber attack is considered high by experts as hackers constantly become more elaborate. Picture by Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“Cyber security is one that is increasing in focus and you’ll have seen this yourselves through the kind of increased coverage it gets in the media.

“People are becoming clever in the ways that they can attack organisations and some councils have been subject to ransomware recently where basically they are hacked and then held ransom to pay money over in order to have data released.

“National government recently sent some guidance out which we’re currently working through.”

Despite the cyber threat, the largest cause of security incidents remains human error. Council employees are getting increased training to deal with this.

Mr Gannon also said the council switching its IT systems from contractor Capita, and bringing them back in-house, had helped.

“We’ve done a lot of transfer from a previous IT supplier and it enables us to have a better handle on the risks because it’s within our direct control.”

He added: "We’re in the process of applying cyber security assessments. I think over the next year we’ll see a greater focus.”

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