THE number of cyber-attacks in Scotland has soared to a record high, new figures have revealed.

There were a total of 403 reported by households in 2020-21, compared to only 57 the previous year - an increase of more than 700% in 12 months.

Of those 403, 331 were to gain unauthorised access to computers, while 71 were attacks on their operation.

The information was disclosed by the Scottish Government in a written parliamentary answer, following a question raised by Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said no details were held regarding the characteristics of victims, including whether they were private households, businesses, charity organisations or public sector organisations.

The figures come just a month after the Auditor General for Scotland warned that public sector bodies must have robust cyber defences in place after revealing that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) still did not know the full financial implications of a December 2020 cyber attack.

Last year Sepa described the cyber attack, which took place on Christmas Eve 2020, as “serious and complex”, noted that it displayed “significant stealth and malicious sophistication” and that that “significantly impacted our organisation, our staff, our public and private partners, and the communities who rely on our services”.

During the attack the majority of Sepa’s data was encrypted, stolen or deleted overnight, with cyber criminals demanding the organisation pay a ransom in order to access it again.

Sepa did not pay the ransom and was able to continue operating, but a special report from Audit Scotland found that the organisation is still working on reinstating parts of its systems and had not yet been able to quantify the full implications of its financial records being wiped.

Holyrood was the target of a sustained "brute force cyber attack" in 2017, similar to one against Westminster a few months earlier.

The Scottish Parliament's IT systems were the focus of the online criminals with extra defences put in place with the help of the National Cyber Security Centre at the time.

Responding to the upsurge in reported cyber attack figures Mr Briggs said Scottish Government's cuts to Police Scotland’s capital budget will hinder their efforts to combat this problem.

“This shocking and unprecedented rise in cyber-attacks will leave many people feeling deeply concerned," said Mr Briggs, who is rhe Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for social justice.

“Our police desperately need the resources to tackle this issue, but instead the SNP Government have given them a real-terms cut to their capital budget."

He added: “That means our police are being left without the equipment, training and resources they need to tackle these attacks. It is essential that the public can go online without feeling under threat from hackers – particularly just now with concerns about global cyber-security in the wake of Russia’s appalling invasion of Ukraine. We know that Scottish public-sector organisations have been subject to cyber-attacks too, so this is a growing problem.

“The Scottish Conservatives called for a £35.6m increase in police capital spending in the last budget – but the SNP ignored us and cut it in real terms. We would ensure that our police are always fully funded and equipped for the future with our Local Policing Act.”

Mr Brown said in the 2020-21 recorded crime statistics, a procedural change was made to the recording of international crime in 2020-21, whereby cases carried out by a perpetrator who was likely to be outside the UK are now included.

He said this change may have led to some additional crimes being recorded in the latest year, though more broadly the increase may in part be due to the significant impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including behavioural changes with more people undertaking activities online.