Government boosts spending on PSN security

The government is planning to significantly boost spending on strengthening the resilience of the public services network this year, according to new figures.

The Cabinet Office data was revealed in a National Audit Office report released yesterday into the performance of the National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP) aimed at tackling cyber crime.

According to the NAO, local government needs to improve its understanding of the threat from hackers and fraudsters, and is lagging behind Whitehall.

The document said: “From those interviewed, it is clear that there is a belief across all sectors – government, academia and industry – that there is a good understanding of the threat by central government, with an average rating of 3.7 out of 5 in our survey of stakeholders.

“But this understanding diminishes the further away organisations are from the centre.

“Stakeholders believe that central government departments unused to dealing with national security or fraud-related threats and NHS and local government organisations have a more varied, but limited understanding of the threat and they do not yet understand what would represent an appropriate level of threat protection.”

The figures showed that the programme overall has a budget of £860m from April 2011 to March 2016.

Figures for the first three years of the programme show that £14.6m was spent on improving the resilience of the public services network out of a total of £434.1m – or £3.4% of the NCSP total.

Proposed spending for 2014/15, which has still to be finalised, shows that proportion increasing to 8.4% – £17.7m out of this year’s £210m estimated total budget.

The NAO said that Cabinet Office allocations to individual delivery partners for the overall NCSP had fluctuated over time.

This partly reflected the “maturity and effectiveness of projects”, it said. “Now that this has improved, the Cabinet Office has been able to tailor allocations more closely to objectives,” it added.

The Cabinet Office has not yet made any specific funding commitments for the NCSP programme beyond 2014-15. The NAO said: “In prior years, the Cabinet Office has entered into multi-year commitments but wants to ensure that for 2015-16 that funds can be allocated flexibly to the highest priorities.

“It has invited delivery partners to indicate if the lack of multi-year commitments is constraining their delivery plans and, where this is the case, is prepared to provide approval in principle.”

In June, more than a third of public sector decision makers said their organisation had been hit by at least one denial of service (DDoS) attack over the past year.

Colin Marrs

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