'We are unprepared for cyber attacks', say ten London council leaders

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London council leaders have even lower confidence in their ability to deal with cyber attacks than local authorities nationwide, new research shows.

Only one of the 11 London council chiefs who responded to a Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) poll said they thought staff would be well equipped to cope with an attack, putting the capital on a worse footing than the rest of the country. 

Of the 106 UK-wide local authority leaders polled by the firm’s Global CEO survey, 53 per cent said they felt adequately prepared. 

Yet Londoners reported higher levels of trust in their local authorities to manage their data than people elsewhere in the UK in a parallel consumer survey of more than 2,000 people.

About 39 per cent of Londoners said they trusted their local council to manage and share their personal data and information, compared to 34 per cent of people UK-wide.

Only about one in five of the capital’s residents reported themselves concerned about their council’s data management capabilities.

The figures, released to the Standard this week after the UK-wide findings were published last month, come as more London authorities fall victim to cyber attacks.

As concerns mounted that London councils could be vulnerable to ransomware attacks such as the one that hit the NHS in May, Islington council revealed it was hit by two “malicious” DDOS attacks that disrupted council tax and rent payments last Saturday and Monday.

Councillor Andy Hull, Islington’s executive member for finance and resources, said there was no reason to believe that money or sensitive data had been lost or stolen, and that ransomware had not been used. 

“However, we have taken precautionary measures to protect our site,” he said.

Councils hold a range of sensitive data about their residents, from council tax details to social care and mental health records.

Last November digital firm Secure Cloudlink published findings, based on successful Freedom of Information requests to 21 London councils, that two thirds had suffered a breach in the previous four years. 

PwC partner Jonathan House told the Standard: “It appears that Londoners have more confidence in their local authorities’ cyber skills than consumers in the rest of the UK, according to [our] research.

“Londoners also have a growing appetite for council services to be available online, with 51 per cent telling PwC their council should put more services online.”

But although 97 per cent of leaders said they were taking steps to address weak defences, “councils, like business, need to find ways to prepare their staff for future obstacles through investment in training and technology”, he said.

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