- While addressing the CyberUK conference in Belfast on Wednesday, Lindy Cameron, the CEO of the NCSC, said the UK needs to have "resilience to all threats, whether they come from nation states or cyber criminals".
- Ms Cameron warned it is important the UK's critical national infrastructure is protected from hackers and also to "make sure people are ready for the threats they could face in the future".
Russia-aligned hackers are seeking to "disrupt or destroy" Britain's critical infrastructure, a Cabinet Office minister has warned.
The groups have started to focus on the UK in recent months, Oliver Dowden said in a speech on Wednesday.
The UK is not doing enough to protect its infrastructure from cyber threats, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warned.
The NCSC also issued an official threat alert to critical businesses.
While addressing the CyberUK conference in Belfast on Wednesday, Lindy Cameron, the CEO of the NCSC, said the UK needs to have "resilience to all threats, whether they come from nation states or cyber criminals".
She went on to tell the audience: "If the UK is to be the safest place to live and work online, then resilience must urgently move to the top of our investment shopping list."
Officials are recommending that organisations, such as those behind the UK's energy and water supplies, "act now" to protect themselves against the emerging cyber threat.
The NCSC - which is part of UK cyber and intelligence agency GCHQ - says the hacking groups, which are often sympathetic to Russia's invasion in Ukraine, are ideologically-motivated.
The alert warned the groups are "less predictable" because they "not subject to formal state control".
"Some have stated a desire to achieve a more disruptive and destructive impact against western critical national infrastructure, including in the UK," the NCSC said.
"We expect these groups to look for opportunities to create such an impact, particularly if systems are poorly protected."
Speaking at the conference, Mr Dowden described the hackers as "Wagner-like" - a reference to the Russian mercenaries fighting in Ukraine.
"Disclosing this threat is not something we do lightly," he said.
"But we believe it is necessary if we want these companies to understand the current risk they face, and take action to defend themselves and the country."
Mr Dowden, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, announced plans to set cyber resilience targets for critical sectors to meet within two years and to bring private sector businesses working on critical infrastructure into the scope of resilience regulations.
"These are the companies in charge of keeping our country running. Of keeping the lights on," he said.
"Our shared prosperity depends on them taking their own security seriously".
Ms Cameron warned it is important the UK's critical national infrastructure is protected from hackers and also to "make sure people are ready for the threats they could face in the future".
She said there have been "some intent" in recent months to try to target such UK infrastructure, adding: "What we are still seeing is quite low-level activity but it is really important that our critical national infrastructure is well protected and resilient."
Speaking on Radio Four's Today programme, she said: "What we've seen in the last year is really significant cyber activity in Ukraine as a result of Russia's conflict so we want to make sure people are prepared for the consequences of these groups taking an interest in more-widely than Ukraine."
When asked about whether she has seen attempts to target the UK, she said: "We're seeing some indication of that, but I wouldn't want to go into further detail."