The National Cyber Security Centre has fended off around 200 attacks related the UK’s Covid-19 pandemic in the past eight months.

In its annual review, published on 3 November, the agency reported on its handling of 723 cyber security incidents between 1 September 2019 and 31 August 2020, with particular focus on bolstering the NHS in the wake of the pandemic.

More than 160 “high-risk and critical vulnerabilities” were shared with NHS trusts to raise awareness of threats, while 230 victims of Covid-19-related incidents, many impacting the NHS, were supported.

The health service was the authority’s “top priority” during the pandemic to “keep the system and its staff secure and resilient to cyber threats”, the review stated.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) deployed analysts to look at NHS threat data to strengthen the the health service’s resilience against attacks.

As a result, more than one million NHS IP addresses were supported and “threat hunting” was performed on 1.4 million endpoints.

Some 51,000 indicators of compromise were discovered through the scanning of NHS IP addresses

Active Cyber Defence services were also rolled out to 235 frontline health services, including NHS trusts.

Lindy Cameron, chief executive of the NCSC, said: “This review outlines the breadth of remarkable work delivered by the NCSC in the past year, largely against a backdrop of the shared global crisis of coronavirus.

“From handling hundreds of incidents to protecting our democratic institutions and keeping people safe while working remotely, our expertise has delivered across multiple frontiers.

“This has all been achieved with the fantastic support of government, businesses and citizens and I would urge them to continue contributing to our collective cyber security.”

Matthew Gould, NHSX chief executive, added: “The NCSC’s support during a time of unprecedented pressure on the NHS has been invaluable.

“The close working between NHSX, NHS Digital and the NCSC has let us have the maximum impact improving the NHS’s cyber resilience with minimum burden on the NHS frontline.”

The contact-tracing app

The NCSC has also supported the Department of Health and Social Care in the development of the NHS Covid-19 app, including providing advice on cyber security best practice and publishing a series of blogs to ensure transparency around the development.

The agency advised on the “optimum level of analytical data” collected by the app to ensure it was granular enough to provide “meaningful insights” into whether it worked without de-anonymising users.

It also supported the threat modelling used by developers to help them understand risks from external threats and their implications for security and privacy.

The NCSC also worked with Scotland and Northern Ireland to provide technical advice on their contact-tracing apps, including advice on making them interoperable.