Protecting the information government holds from unauthorised access or loss is a critical responsibility for departmental accounting officers, particularly with the increasing need to disseminate this information to other public bodies, delivery partners, service users, and citizens via new digital services. The Cabinet Office is responsible for coordinating this activity across central government departments. However, increasing dependencies between central government and the wider public sector means traditional security boundaries have become blurred. In recent years, the threat of electronic data loss from cyber crime, espionage, and accidental disclosure has risen considerably; the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) dealt with 200 national cyber security incidents (defined as attacks which threatened UK national security) per month in 2015, up from 100 per month in 2014. Concurrently, personal data breach reporting remains highly variable, with some departments recording thousands of incidents in the 2014–15 financial year and five departments recording none at all. In October 2016, GCHQ launched the new National Cyber Security Centre, designed to act as a bridge between industry and government, providing a unified source of advice, guidance and support on cyber security, including the management of cyber security incidents. The Cabinet Office’s second National Cyber Security Strategy was published in November 2016.
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