Cyber security news roundup: August

Published on: 1 Sep 2021

We're rounding up some of the biggest cyber security stories of the past few weeks. In August, T-Mobile fell victim to another cyber attack, plans for a new tech campus near GCHQ moved forward and new research highlighted the extent of data breaches so far in 2021.

Almost 19bn records exposed during first half of 2021

A total of 18.8 billion data records were compromised in 1,767 publicly-reported breaches in the first half of 2021, new research has shown, though this still marked a decline of 24 per cent compared with the previous six-month period.

This is according to data from Risk Based Security, which warned that despite the overall drop in breaches, this does not mean firms' security measures have improved over the course of the pandemic.

Inga Goddijn, executive vice-president at Risk Based Security, said: "Ransomware attacks continue at an alarming pace, inflicting serious damage on the victim organisations that rely on their services." She added that reporting remains slow as firms undertake lengthy investigations, while criminals "continue to find new opportunities to take advantage of changing circumstances".

New cyber campus planned near GCHQ

Plans for a new tech campus in Cheltenham adjacent to the GCHQ building have been unveiled, which will create thousands of jobs and spur development in the UK's burgeoning cyber security sector.

The 200-hectare site will feature a 'Cyber Central Innovation Zone' that aims to nurture creativity within the cyber sector, generating pioneering thinking and allowing the best talent to interact and collaborate, from start-ups to large global corporations and the public sector. 

In total, the project is expected to create 12,000 jobs and two million square feet of commercial space. The scheme has the backing of the UK government, with minister for digital infrastructure Matt Warman commenting: "We are investing to help cyber security businesses across the country tackle barriers to growth and boost people’s digital skills so we can usher in a golden age in UK tech."

More than 50 million users' data stolen in T-Mobile data breach

The personal data of more than 50 million customers of T-Mobile in the US has been stolen in a data breach, which the company described as a "highly sophisticated cyber attack". Information including names, birth dates, social security numbers and drivers’ licence details were among the stolen data, though the telco provider said no financial information was stolen.

Chief executive of the firm Mike Sievert said in a blog post the experience had been "humbling" and he was "disappointed and frustrated" by the incident. The company also offered affected users two years free identity protection services and made Account Takeover Protection available for postpaid customers.

It was noted by The Verge that this marked the fifth breach for T-Mobile in the last four years, while the hacker claiming to be behind the attack described the firm's security as "awful". T-Mobile is now partnering with cybersecurity firm Mandiant and consultants at KPMG in order to improve its defences.
Riskiest cyber security behaviours identified by CISA

The US' Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has published a list of some of the most dangerous security practices for firms that can leave networks exposed to cyber attacks, with it noting many breaches could be avoided if these mistakes were eliminated.

Along with the use of unsupported software and allowing default usernames and passwords, relying on single-factor authentication is the latest risky behaviour to be added to the list, with CISA noting the use of multi-factor authentication can help disrupt over 99 per cent of cyber attacks, the body continued.

"The presence of these bad practices in organisations that support critical infrastructure ... is exceptionally dangerous and increases risk to our critical infrastructure, on which we rely for national security, economic stability, and life, health, and safety of the public," CISA continued.

Utilities firms at risk due to poor cyber security practices

Energy firms around the globe may be especially at risk of falling victim to cyber security incidents as they often lack basic security skills, an expert has warned.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by Enlit Europe entitled 'Cybersecurity for a decentralising energy system', chief technology officer at CF Partners Rafael Narezzi said firms will need to improve their security frameworks as more distributed renewable energy solutions are integrated into main power grids, which will increase the vulnerability of integrated energy assets to cyber attacks.

"Doing the basics is one of the necessities I do not see many companies doing," he said, adding: "Energy companies are still lagging. We are moving but not at the right speed of [cyber criminals]."