London councils refuse to disclose cyber risks strategy

A number of London councils have decided not to reveal their cyber risk strategy following  a UK Freedom of Information (FoI) request by cyber security specialist ProLion as to whether they have cyber insurance.

According to Prolion, the feedback suggest that 17 (52%) of London’s borough councils may not have a cyber insurance policy in place to provide support in the event they suffer a cyber-attack on their IT systems – though this is not necessarily the case given the sensitivity of the subject and the desire by many risk managers not to encourage ransomware attacks by declaring their hand.

ProLion sent the FoI request to each of London’s 32 borough councils plus the City of London in December 2021.

Five councils (17 percent) refused to say whether or not they have in place a cyber insurance policy, citing Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act which exempts the disclosure of information that could ‘prejudice the prevention or detection of crime’.

One council responded to say that the disclosure of information related to cyber insurance could lead to an increased risk by encouraging an attack. Others said that disclosure of such information would give cybercriminals insight into possible vulnerabilities, or embolden them to attack those most at risk.

Prolion said that eight borough councils (24 percent) were ambiguous or unclear in their response to the FoI request. Three borough councils did not respond to the request at all.

Steve Arlin, VP sales, UK, Americas & APAC, ProLion, said: “Ransomware attacks have continued to rapidly grow both in frequency and sophistication. The situation demanded action a long time ago, and the issue is now so large that businesses can’t afford to be reactive in their approach to cybersecurity.”

“Ransomware brings with it a risk of reputational damage, productivity losses, and of course the cost of paying the ransom. But for an organisation such as a borough council, the risk of large volumes of sensitive personal data falling into the wrong hands means that it could face huge UK GDPR related fines as a result.

“Furthermore, the rise in staff working from home remotely means there are new risks to consider. If not managed correctly, remote working can open the door to an insider threat. It only takes one click by an employee to infect an entire network.

“We would advise all organisations to bolster their defences with several layers of protection, and with multiple mitigations at each layer. It’s also wise to invest in the latest file protection solutions, as these can automatically block known ransomware signatures and files that have not been approved, while simultaneously monitoring users for any unusual behaviour. This is a vital final layer of cyber defence if all other security solutions fail.”

The research also provided insights on councils’ approach to cybersecurity. Responding to the freedom of information request, a representative for one council explained: “We have discovered the cyber insurance market remains very challenging and therefore difficult to obtain competitive quotations, we are currently looking at both insurance and a cyber consultancy review, including self-assessments as a solution to our cyber risks.”

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