UK government proposes new ransomware response amid rising cyber threats

Mandatory reporting and licensing requirements to combat cyber threats effectively are among the proposed changes.

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British officials are planning a significant revamp of the country’s approach to ransomware attacks. The proposed changes include asking all victims to report incidents to the government and requiring them to obtain a licence before making any ransom payments. These proposals, set to be part of a forthcoming public consultation, also aim to ban ransom payments for organisations involved in national critical infrastructure to deter hackers from targeting essential services for financial gain.

The mandatory reporting requirement is seen as crucial in shedding light on the true extent of the ransomware problem, which has been a challenge for policymakers. Last year, the National Cyber Security Centre and the Information Commissioner’s Office expressed concern about victims of ransomware not reporting the incidents. However, concerns have also risen about the potential attack recovery delays and disruptions that the licensing regime could introduce, especially if victims are required to learn how to navigate a new reporting platform.

While the specifics of the licensing process are still unclear, the proposals are expected to evolve further through public consultations before potentially becoming law. The government typically takes up to 12 weeks after a consultation to publish its response and outline plans for legislative changes. However, due to the upcoming general election, the introduction of new bills related to ransomware may face delays, given the Labour Party, currently leading in the polls, has yet to articulate its stance on cybersecurity.

Despite potential implementation challenges, these proposals represent a significant shift in global responses to ransomware attacks. The UK’s proactive stance in addressing ransomware through international initiatives could influence other countries to follow suit. The government has emphasised its commitment to combating ransomware attacks and enhancing cybersecurity measures, including efforts to disrupt ransomware gangs and secure international agreements against ransom payments.

Criticism of the government’s previous response to ransomware attacks has prompted calls for increased funding to combat cybercriminals. Although the lack of a mandatory reporting system has hindered accurate assessments of the prevalence of ransomware incidents in the UK, recent data from the Information Commissioner’s Office suggests a rise in data breaches due to ransomware attacks, stressing the urgency of addressing this growing threat.

As the UK continues to strengthen its global response to ransomware, cooperation with international partners, law enforcement agencies, and industry stakeholders remains key in tackling this critical cybersecurity issue.