NCSC Operation Haulster flagged fraud on more than one million stolen credit cards

Source: NCSC

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has defended the UK against more than 600 cyber attacks in the past year – bringing the total number to almost 1,800, new figures show today.

The figures are contained in the NCSC’s third Annual Review, which also sets out the various ways the organisation has been protecting the public. This includes a pioneering operation to stop hundreds of thousands of people losing money to credit card fraud.

Over the period of the review the NCSC has dealt with 658 incidents, which brings the total number to almost 1,800 since the Centre’s formation in 2016. A significant number of incidents continue to come from hostile nation states.

In the most wide-ranging review yet produced by the NCSC, which is a part of GCHQ, significant disclosures include:

The pioneering Operation Haulster, which automatically flagged fraudulent intention against more than one million stolen credit cards, as a result protecting hundreds of thousands of people from financial loss
A machine to improve the efficiency of information sharing around threats to the UK - speeding up the process from a matter of hours to just seconds
A breakdown for the first time of the sectors which are given the most support from the NCSC’s Incident Management team, with government heading the list, followed by academia, IT, managed service providers and - in joint fifth - health and transport

Minister for the Cabinet Office Oliver Dowden said:

“We've made great progress on making the UK safer since launching our world-leading £1.9 billion cyber security strategy in 2015. Establishing the NCSC was a key part of this and has played a central role in tackling online threats posed by criminals, hacktivists and hostile nation states.

“As the Cabinet Office Minister responsible for resilience against cyber attacks and protecting our critical national infrastructure, I very much welcome the achievements laid out in this Annual Review which shows that we are making the UK a more challenging place for our cyber adversaries to operate in."

NCSC Chief Executive Ciaran Martin said:

“This review gives a real insight into the breadth of outstanding work done by the NCSC and underlines why we are a world leader in cyber security.

“From handling more than 600 incidents - many from hostile nation states - to equipping the public with the tools they need to stay safe online, we are employing our expertise on a number of fronts.

“I am proud to lead this organisation and optimistic that, in a constantly evolving landscape, we can help make this the safest country to live and work online.”

Elsewhere in the review, the key role the NCSC plays in protecting the democratic process is highlighted. The organisation meets with UK political parties every three months and regularly gives cyber security advice to Parliamentarians, and during this year’s local and European elections provided parties with guidance on risks and advice on protecting people and systems.

The success of the Active Cyber Defence (ACD) Programme is also highlighted. ACD is the NCSC’s world-leading, bold, interventionist approach that stops millions of cyber attacks from ever happening.

ACD features a number of pioneering programmes, such as the Takedown Service, which finds malicious sites and sends notifications to the host to get them removed. Thanks to this service, 98% of phishing URLs discovered to be malicious were taken down, a total of 177,335 phishing URLs. Of those, 62.4% were removed in the first hour.

There are also examples in the review of how the NCSC is helping defend individuals and families from the cyber threat, including via Operation Haulster.

As a result of this operation, fraudulent intention against more than a million credit cards was automatically flagged to banks, in the majority of cases before a crime had taken place. This means hundreds of thousands of people were protected before they lost a penny.

The review underlines the NCSC’s commitment to sharing as much threat information as possible in real time, in the form of the new Indicator of Compromise (IoC) machine.

Previously it has taken several hours for officials to be able to share information relating to threats to the UK, but the IoC machine can identify what can be shared in a matter of seconds - though the final decision still lies with a person.

Among the key statistics from the past year, the review shows the NCSC:

Handled 658 incidents, with support provided to almost 900 victim organisations
Produced 154 threat assessments for a range of sectors
Delivered, along with sector and law enforcement partners, cyber security awareness and training sessions to more than 2,700 charities
Welcomed visiting delegations from 56 countries
Enabled 2,886 small businesses across the UK to do simulated cyber exercising for themselves
Challenged 11,802 girls in the 2019 CyberFirst Girls Competition

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