Minister tight-lipped on number of government cyberattacks and malware infections

Cabinet Office minister of state Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe declines to answer parliamentary requests for data on security incidents and claims that ‘government does not comment on issues concerning national security’

A minister has declined to provide any data on the number of cyberattacks targeted at government or malware infections suffered by departments during the past year.

In recent parliamentary questions, Labour peer Lord Steve Bassam asked the Cabinet Office to provide information on “how many individual devices issued by government departments have been identified as containing malware”, as well as data on “how many successful, and unsuccessful, cyberattacks have been identified in each government department”. In each case, Bassam requested figures covering the prior 12 months.

In response, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe – a minister of state at the Cabinet Office – declined to provide any numbers, indicating in each case that this is reflective of a policy that “the government does not comment on issues concerning national security”.

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She added that the Government Security Strategy, published last year, will help public bodies ensure their resilience against both attempted and successful attacks.

“A key objective of the strategy covers how the government will minimise the impact of cybersecurity incidents,” she said. “Departments will need to prepare for incidents, be able to respond and contain when they inevitably do happen and learn the lessons from them after the event.”

The minister added: “The strategy outlines how departments must be able to minimise the impact when malware is found.”

Despite Neville-Rolfe’s comments, government bodies do provide some data on security incidents, with departments’ yearly accounts providing annual comparative information on the volume, nature, and impact of data breaches during the prior 12 months.

Ministers have also previously answered questions about topics such as the volume of government-owned devices lost or stolen each year.

Sam Trendall

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