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Organizations operating critical infrastructure could face hefty fines of up to £17m if they lack adequate cybersecurity measures, the UK government announced over the weekend.

The penalties would apply to energy, transport, water and health firms that “fail to have the most robust safeguards in place against cyber attack,” the UK government said in a press release.

“New regulators will be able to assess critical industries to make sure plans are as robust as possible,” the announcement read.

According to the UK government, a “simple, straightforward reporting system” will be set up to make reporting cyber breaches and IT failures easy, so that they can be quickly identified and acted upon.

“This will ensure UK operators in electricity, transport, water, energy, transport, health and digital infrastructure are prepared to deal with the increasing numbers of cyber threats,” said the UK government.

Other threats affecting IT, including power outages, hardware failures and environmental hazards, will also be covered.

“These incidents would have to be reported to the regulator who would assess whether appropriate security measures were in place. The regulator will have the power to issue legally-binding instructions to improve security, and – if appropriate – impose financial penalties,” the announcement said.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, noted that such new measures would “help ensure the UK is the safest place in the world to live and be online.”

“We want our essential services and infrastructure to be primed and ready to tackle cyber attacks and be resilient against major disruption to services. I encourage all public and private operators in these essential sectors to take action now and consult NCSC’s advice on how they can improve cyber security,” said James.

The warning follows proposals made last year by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport aimed to comply with the EU’s Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive, which is set to go into effect in May.

To help companies comply with the new directive, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) published detailed guidance on the security measures, which align with existing cyber security standards.

For more information, view the NIS Guidance Collection here: