BT Security Chief: ‘Exceptional cyberattacks’ are now the norm

According to BT’s chief security officer, the threat of cyberattacks has grown at an “unprecedented pace”. He spoke about the challenges of protecting the telecoms networks.

Howard Watson stated that the increasing pressure on digital infrastructure following the Covid lockdowns had “a big impact on security monitoring”, because the business must analyse greater quantities of data in order to identify suspicious or malign activity.

BT’s network has become a target of hackers due to its economic importance. The National Cyber Security Centre issued an alert last month to CNI organisations, warning them of a new threat from groups with state-aligned interests. The National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of GCHQ’s intelligence division, warned that some hackers have declared their intention to launch “destructive or disruptive attacks”. It also urged CNI companies in the UK to improve their security.

Watson said: “The past few years have taught that we need to plan for what was once regarded as an ‘exceptional event’ rather than as a distant possibility.

He said that the company was dealing with new hacker types and hacks. “We now also have to deal with ‘cybercrime-for-hire’ and increasingly automated attack which can quickly find vulnerabilities and cause an enormous amount of damage with minimal human effort or input.”

The most dangerous technology is the one that’s the most advanced: “Technological progress, as always, has a double edge in terms of security.” Quantum and artificial intelligence have the potential to be very beneficial in the right hands or cause major damage in the incorrect hands. We know cybercriminals are going to use these technologies. So we need to be prepared to respond accordingly.”

He said that the company has “reduced” the number of scam calls and texts the UK public receives by using AI.

BT employs over 130,000 people, with 3,000 of them dedicated to cybersecurity

BT has a workforce of around 130,000, and 3,000 of them are employed in cybersecurity. They protect the company’s operations and its customers. Its services include EE’s mobile network, Openreach Broadband and the BT Sport Joint Venture.

In the NCSC’s most recent annual report, 18 ransomware attacks in 2022 will require a coordinated national response. This includes an attack on a NHS 111 supplier.

Cybercrime such as phishing continues to pose the greatest threat to the public and to small businesses. In the year to March 2022, there were 2.7 millions cyber-related frauds.

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