Back in November 2020, the UK Telecommunications (Security) Act started its journey through the Houses of Parliament, and after many readings and much consultation it finally went live almost two years later on the 1st October 2022. At the heart of the Act was a desire to improve the security posture of the UK’s telecoms networks, infrastructure, and organisations, recognising the importance of telecommunications as part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI).
The Act followed the “Telecoms Supply Chain Review” which criticised the lack of incentive for telcos to follow best security practices. It provides all the incentive needed by imposing new legal requirements on telecoms firms, handing enhanced regulatory powers to the regulator OFCOM. It also enabled the Secretary of State to introduce a Code of Practice, which outlines the technical requirements with which telecoms operators need to comply.
It is worth noting that the Act segregates the organisations that are covered into three tiers, judged principally by their annual turnover as an indicator for the impact that any downtime they may experience would have on the UK’s ability to continue to operate business as usual. Tier one are companies with a turnover of more than £1bn, tier two have turnovers above £50m, and tier three have turnovers of less than £50m.
While the Act is now operational, it includes time for organisations to make the necessary changes for compliance. Tier one companies have just under a year (until 31 March 2024) to implement the “most straightforward and least resource intensive measures,” and an extra year (31 March 2025) to implement the more complex parts of the requirements. For tier two operators, they get an extra two years on each of these days. Tier three have no specific deadline, but are instead “strongly encouraged” to “take appropriate and proportionate measures” and to use the code of practice as a guide.
With the focus on incentivising best practice, of course there are fines for non-compliance—up to 10% of a company’s annual turnover plus up to £100,000 a day for ongoing contravention.
Let’s recap what is covered in the Act.
- The act is looking to the securing of data processed by the telco’s networks and services, including securing the functions that operate and manage the data
- Operators must protect the software and equipment that monitors and analyses networks and services
- Telcos are expected to have (and be able to demonstrate) a deep understanding of the risks they face, as well as the specific ability to identify anomalous activity. They have a specific requirement to communicate and report on these risks and incidents to the relevant internal boards
- Finally, and perhaps most challenging for some, operators are required to step up their supply chain risk management. This includes demonstrating a clear awareness of ownership and responsibility across the supply chain – understanding and controlling access
We are having conversations with a number of our customers (and prospects) around the UK Telecommunications Security Act, with a specific focus on how we can assist providers in identifying their externally-facing systems, if sensitive data is exposed, securing specific protocols, and identifying new risks from their supply chain. Much of the discussion relates to the point at which robust security around core network infrastructure interfaces with day-to-day productivity tools that may not be so well protected. For this reason we are seeing interest in both CASB cloud application visibility and security, and broader zero trust network access (ZTNA) tools.
What do you need to know about us?
- Netskope identifies and protects sensitive data stored in cloud services using predefined and custom compliance templates and language-independent data identifiers to inspect multiple file types.
- The platform provides granular control, ensures compliance, protects against threats, and applies contextual policies for managed and unmanaged devices accessing the web, SaaS applications, and cloud services.
- Netskope offers advanced threat protection capabilities, including multi-layer threat detection and machine learning anomaly detection, to uncover and stop advanced attacks.