The technical director of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has said that a ‘category one’ cyber attack – the most severe form – will likely happen in the next few years.

Ian Levy made the announcement at Symantec’s Crystal Ball event, which discussed the next decade of information security.

He said that “sometime in the next few years we’re going to have our first category one cyber incident”. He explained that a category one attack requires “a national response”.

Mr Levy added that the only way to stop this type of breach was to change the way businesses and governments think about cybersecurity.

The recent WannaCry ransomware incident was a category two cyber attack, affecting systems around the world and leaving the NHS in turmoil.

According to Mr Levy, the impending category one incident might not be the result of “an unprecedented, sophisticated attack that couldn’t possibly be defended against,” but rather originate as an error or shortcut taken, which then gives attackers an opportunity to attack.

He explained that because the attack would be the country’s first, there would be an independent investigation and it will reveal “that it was entirely preventable”.

Mr Levy said the resulting investigation into the category one attack will reveal that the attacked organisation “didn’t really understand what data they had, what value it had or the impact it could have outside that organisation”.

He advised organisations that want to prevent this sort of breach to stop relying on security measures that come as a standard solution, and instead engage with employees to discover what could be possible for the specific firm. He said that companies need security systems that people can actually use without having to subvert them.

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