Airlines could face huge fines for delays caused by computer and IT meltdowns in the future under government plans.
Ministers who want to force firms in essential services areas like transport, energy and health to improve their IT systems have begun a consultation.
Companies that fail to protect their systems from failures or cyber attacks could face fines of as much as £17 million or 4% if global turnover.
Matthew Hancock, minister for digital, said: “Adverse incidents affecting such systems could cause significant damage to the UK economy, impeding economic activity and undermining user confidence, or result in substantial financial losses.
“The magnitude, frequency and impact of network and information system security incidents is increasing.
“Recent events such as the WannaCry ransomware attack, the 2016 attacks on US water utilities, and the 2015 attack on Ukraine’s electricity network clearly highlight the impact that can result from adversely affected network and information systems.
“There is a need to therefore improve the security of network and information systems across the UK, with a particular focus on essential services which if disrupted, could potentially cause significant damage to the UK economy, society and individuals’ welfare.”
British Airways recently revealed that the IT meltdown that caused chaos over this year’s May bank holiday weekend cost the carrier €65 million.
Ciaran Martin, head of the National Cyber Security Centre, said: “We welcome this consultation and agree that many organisations need to do more to increase their cyber security.
“The NCSC is committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to live and do business online, but we can’t do this alone.
“Everyone has a part to play and that’s why we since our launch we have been offering organisations expert advice on our website and the Government’s Cyber Essentials Scheme.”