Bosses of infrastructure companies will now be expected to have safeguards in place against cyber threats, and report breaches or network outages to regulators within 72 hours or face fines of up to £17m.
Digital minister Margot James has said that the new law will help reduce the number of damaging cyber attacks affecting the UK.
It will also give new regulators powers to assess critical industries and make sure plans are in place to prevent attacks. The regulator will have the power to issue legally-binding instructions to improve security and impose ‘significant’ fines.
The legislation will also cover other threats affecting IT such as hardware failures and environmental hazards.
The National Cyber Security Centre, set up by the government in October 2016 as part of GCHQ, has already responded to more than 950 significant incidents.
Margot James, minister for digital and the creative industries, said: ‘It’s vital that we put in place tough new measures to strengthen the UK’s cyber security and make sure we are the safest place in the world to live and be online.
Organisations must act now to make sure that they are primed and ready to stop potential cyber attacks and be resilient against major disruption to the services we all rely on.
Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, said: ‘These new measures will help to strengthen the security of the UK’s infrastructure.
‘By acting on the NCSC’s expert technical advice and reporting incidents, organisations can protect themselves against those who would do us harm.
‘The UK government is committed to making the UK the safest place to live and do business online, but we can’t do this alone. Every citizen, business and organisation must play their part.
The directive is part of the government’s five-year £1.9bn National Cyber Security Strategy to protect the nation from cyber threats.