Steps have been taken to bolster Renfrewshire Council’s cyber security amid the threat of troubling “advanced attacks” after a deal was rubber-stamped.

A contract for the provision of phishing prevention software – which could prove to be worth just over £667,000 – was approved by the finance, resources and customer services policy board on Thursday.

The initial three-year agreement – with an option to extend for two years on two separate occasions – will now be awarded to IT company Softcat.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Councillor Bruce MacFarlane, an SNP representative for Paisley Southeast and member of the board, said: “[Cyber security] can no longer be a tick-box exercise.

“We need to make sure that staff and elected members are on the ball with this and we need to be as vigilant as possible.

“The personal data we hold is sensitive and I think it’s right that we spend money on looking after it as much as we can.”

A report, which was considered by the board, highlighted several examples of sophisticated threats that are becoming more and more difficult to prevent.

It said cyber criminals recognise Microsoft 365 is the most commonly used email and communications solution for businesses across the world and have designed threats to evade its detection capabilities.

The paper added: “The attack formula has also changed. Whilst the volumetric, less sophisticated attacks were once the most common and are still prevalent, now far more concerning are advanced attacks that perimeter defences (by nature of design) are unable to stop e.g. impersonation, business email compromise, supply chain compromise, social engineering or zero-day attacks.

“These attacks increase the threat of a human being unable to recognise a phishing attack and therefore triggering a wider attack such as those mentioned above which can result in further risks like ransomware.

“Ransomware could have a crippling impact on service delivery through e.g. loss of systems or access to data, data exfiltration, extortion, recovery costs and reputational damage to the council.”

It said the contract for an intelligent email security solution would provide a “second layer of anti-phishing protection”.