The government's spy agency, GCHQ, is to launch a programme today that aims to help business leaders in their attempts to tackle the growing threat of cyber attacks.
The programme, dubbed Cyber Security for Business, will be the first time that the government and intelligence services have co-operated directly with the private sector in this type of role and could be the first of many future programmes, the Independent newspaper reported.
GCHQ will focus on showing businesses how best to bolster their cyber defences and reduce risks through prevention methods. CIOs will also be given case studies detailing how firms have been affected by cyber attacks, and statistics of cyber threats.
The launch comes a few months after the Intelligence Security Committee stated that UK cyber security is inadequate, despite the government spending £650m over a four-year period from 2010 on the National Cyber Security Programme (NCSP).
Last year, a report entitled The Cost of Cyber Crime estimated that cyber crime is costing the UK economy as much as £27bn a year. According to the report, the private sector absorbs more than three-quarters of the economic impact of cyber crime in the form of fraud, theft of intellectual property and industrial espionage.
In June, MI5 head Jonathan Evans stated that corporate espionage on "an industrial scale" was targeting the UK, with one company suffering an estimated £800m loss as a result of the theft of its intellectual property.
GCHQ director Iain Lobban explained that the practical approach taken by the government and intelligence services will "make the bad guys' jobs harder" and will not cost a fortune.
"The impact of cyber threats is severe, both to specific companies affected and to the long-term security and prosperity of the UK," he said.
He also suggested that many UK businesses that believe they have adequate defences are fooling themselves.
The UK's approach to cyber security has been heavily criticised over the past year.
In April, former GCHQ and the head of the Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG) within GCHQ, Nick Hopkinson, told Computing that the UK lagged behind the US, France and Germany in its ability to respond to cyber attacks because of a "lack of cohesion" between the various UK organisations set up to work towards the cyber security strategy.
In July, former government deputy CIO Bill McCluggage said that the government's response to security proceeded at a "glacial pace".
However, former government CIO Joe Harley hit back stating that he was "hugely impressed" by those working on the strategy, including GCHQ and CESG.
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A discussion of the "risk perception gap", its implications and how it can be closed