British businesses crucial in helping remove over 235,000 scams

Posted on 13 July, 2023 by Advance 

The sixth annual report from Active Cyber Defence (ACD) has highlighted the success of a 'whole-of-society' approach in preventing millions of cyber attacks reaching UK organisations and citizens each year.

Image courtesy NCSC

British businesses and citizens reported a suspicious email or website every five seconds in 2022, a new report from GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has revealed.

A total of 7.1 million suspicious emails and URLs were flagged by UK organisations and citizens via the NCSC’s free Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) between January 2022 and December 2022 – the equivalent of nearly 20,000 reports a day.

The reports, many of which came from UK businesses, contributed to the direct removal of nearly a quarter of a million (235,000) malicious URLs from the internet by the NCSC since SERS – the first service of its kind globally – launched in April 2020.

It took less than six hours on average for the NCSC to remove reported malicious URLs from the internet.

The finding is one of many insights in the sixth annual report from Active Cyber Defence (ACD), a cornerstone programme from the NCSC which takes a “whole-of-society" approach to cyber crime and prevents millions of high-volume cyber attacks from ever reaching UK organisations and citizens each year.

Jonathon Ellison, NCSC Director for National Resilience and Future Technology, said: “In a cyber threat environment that resembles the Hydra – cut down one attack, another springs up in its place – ACD is once again doing unparalleled work to keep the country safe.

“As this latest report shows, cyber security is not the sole preserve of tech specialists: businesses are increasingly alive to and eager to engage with the cyber risks they face, signing up in swathes to make the most of NCSC data and expertise.

“Small businesses have a key role to play in making it safer to work and live online, which is why we’re making it even easier for them to shore up their defences with accessible, free tools and soon, to manage these effortlessly via our integrated MyNCSC platform.”

Businesses’ growing appetite for cyber security in 2022 led to 39% more organisations signing up for ACD’s free services which are designed to empower users without specialist knowledge or a dedicated security function at work to boost their cyber resilience.

Small businesses constitute 99% of the UK’s business ecosystem and are hence indispensable to national prosperity. They also, however, face a unique set of behavioural barriers, financial pressures and competing priorities to achieving robust cyber security, often not having the expertise or allocated resource to give cyber due attention.

Martin McTague, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “While security is important, we’ve long championed building cyber resilience among small firms, given the persistent risk of cybercrime.

“A fifth of small businesses see cybercrime as the most impactful crime in terms of both cost and disruption to their operations.

“NCSC is doing the right thing by making its services accessible to SMEs so that they can better protect themselves in the digital world.”

Given their unique vulnerability, in 2022 NCSC launched two accessible ACD services to help a higher proportion of small businesses to better protect themselves: Email Security Check and Check Your Cyber Security.

Email Security Check provides a quick and simple way of understanding aspects of email security like anti-spoofing and email encryption. Since launching in April 2022, it has scanned over 54,000 email domains.

Check Your Cyber Security (CYCS) is a scalable vulnerability check tool designed specifically for small organisations to fix their critical vulnerabilities without requiring ongoing support from the NCSC.

Other key highlights from 2022, the sixth year of ACD’s operations, include:

Phishing scams remain the most prevalent attack hosted in the UK, though the amount of global phishing campaigns hosted in the UK has declined.

Opportunistic attacks on the HMG brand decreased by 17% while the crisis in Ukraine was a consistent pretence for cryptocurrency scams throughout 2022.

ACD’s Protective Domain Name Service (PDNS), which provides safeguards to prevent organisations from accessing malicious sites containing malware, phishing attacks and more, blocked 11 billion DNS queries for 420,000 domains in 2022.

Businesses can access the report on the sixth year of the ACD programme via the NCSC website, as well as a Summary covering key highlights and trends.