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Telecoms security law to protect UK from cyber threats

A new law will ensure that telecoms companies in the UK follow tougher security rules or face fines of up to ten per cent of turnover.

The Telecommunications (Security) Bill aims to give the government unprecedented new powers to boost the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks and remove the threat of high risk vendors.

The legislation is seeking to strengthen the security framework for technology used in 5G and full fibre networks, including the electronic equipment and software at phone mast sites and in telephone exchanges which handle internet traffic and telephone calls.

Over the past two years the Government has attributed a range of cyber attacks to Russia and China, as well as North Korea and Iranian actors. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport says that the law will be a significant step to protect the UK from hostile cyber activity by state actors or criminals.

The Bill will also provide the government with new national security powers to issue directions to public telecoms providers in order to manage the risk of high risk vendors. While they are already banned from the most sensitive ‘core’ parts of the network, the Bill will allow the government to impose controls on telecoms providers’ use of goods, services or facilities supplied by high risk vendors.

Companies which fall short of the new duties or do not follow directions on the use of high risk vendors could face heavy fines of up to ten per cent of turnover or, in the case of a continuing contravention, £100,000 per day.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We are investing billions to roll out 5G and gigabit broadband across the country, but the benefits can only be realised if we have full confidence in the security and resilience of our networks. This groundbreaking bill will give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and allow us to take the action necessary to protect our networks.”

Ian Levy, NCSC Technical Director, added: “The roll-out of 5G and gigabit broadband presents great opportunities for the UK, but as we benefit from these we need to improve security in our national networks and operators need to know what is expected of them.”

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