US and UK simulate cyber-attacks to better prepare

The UK and the US will together simulate large-scale cyber-attacks in a bid to better prepare for an actual cyber-attack, following an unprecedented assault on Sony Pictures, as well as newer attacks on the US government's social media profiles.

The UK government has confirmed the drill will include a simulation of a cyber-attack on the financial sector in 2015.

"GCHQ has massive expertise in fighting cyber-attacks ", said UK Prime Minister David Cameron to the press in Washington, where he’s currently on a two-day visit.

"Cyber-attacks is one of the big modern threats that we face. This is a real signal it's time to step up the efforts and to do more. It's also about protecting people's data, people's finances - these attacks can have real consequences to people's prosperity”, he added.

US President Barack Obama added that cybersecurity threats were an "urgent and growing danger."

The UK government confirmed that both countries would be operating "cyber-cells" and that Britain's MI5 and the US' FBI would be working closely together.

The confirmation for the drills comes shortly after a hacker group known as #GOP (Guardians of Peace) broke into Sony Pictures Entertainment and stole classified data, including private e-mails, celebrities’ phone numbers, and a number of yet unreleased movies, which were later leaked online.

The reason behind the attack is the comedy movie The Interview, in which two American journalists get a secret assignment to assassinate the leader of North Korea.

Hackers said the movie was an act of war, and tried to force Sony into not showing the movie.

Instead in movie theatres, The Interview premiered online.

Sony has announced that The Interview made $15 million (£9.9m) from online sales and rentals since its Christmas Eve release on online platforms. The film also made $2.8 million in theatres over the long Christmas weekend.

Chris Boyd, security intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes told ITProPortal "This is a response to the fact that the past year has summoned in a new era in terms of cyber-war and data breaches. The hacking of critical infrastructure, companies and government targets was once considered taboo and too technically difficult for nation states and criminal groups. This is now no longer the case.

Technical teams need to be given the freedom, resources and time in order to ensure this is more than just a PR exercise. Today's advanced attacks are carried out by creative, skilled teams who are not burdened by the limitations of Government bureaucracy, something which needs to be replicated for such an initiative to flourish.”