Maude: UK is in stronger cyber security position than a year ago

By Sooraj Shah
30 Nov 2012 View Comments
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Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has claimed that the UK is better able to deal with cyber threats than a year ago.

On the anniversary of the inception of the UK cyber strategy, Maude, who oversees the strategy, has claimed that the UK is in a stronger position than a year ago but that there is still much work to be done.

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"We've made progress raising awareness but this is only half the story. We will continue to improve education; stimulating cyber skills, support business and industry; increasing cyber confidence," he said in a statement.

The strategy – which has seen the government pledge £650m to bolster the UK's digital defences and improve its capability in cyber space – has been widely criticised since its inception.

In April, former GCHQ and CESG head 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 organisations set up to enact the strategy.

His views were echoed by former US cyber intelligence officer Bob Ayers and director of information security at Ernst & Young, Mark Brown.

"The most fundamental problem is that there is no one either accountable or responsible for the implementation of the programme," Ayers emphasised.

But Maude was positive about the impact that the strategy has had.

"Having a clear strategy has put us in a much stronger position. We have further to go but we are moving forward. Law enforcement must not only compete with cyber criminals but beat them. Businesses and citizens are better aware of protecting themselves, and threats to our national infrastructure have been confronted," he said.

Maude then stated that programmes like Cyber Security for Business, which aims to help business leaders in their attempts to tackle the growing threat of cyber-attacks, will be integral for the UK to combat cyber-crime.

"The private sector is the largest economic victim of cyber-crime, such as IP theft, and from economic espionage perpetrated through cyberspace. Much of the infrastructure we need to protect in the UK is owned and operated by the private sector. That is why a pioneering partnership between the public and private sector is vital and will be enhanced early next year," he said.

Former government deputy CIO Bill McCluggage had previously hit out at the way the government approaches cyber security, describing the pace of change as "glacial".

But Maude acknowledged the pace of change in technology as something the government needs to react to swiftly.

"The government is seeing thousands of malicious emails blocked on government systems every month. Our responses have to be fast and flexible. In reality what works one day is unlikely to work a matter of months or even weeks later," he said.

Maude went on to suggest that cyber security capacity needed to grow globally. He cited the UK's centre of excellence on cyber security as an example of how Britain wants to help other countries by offering independent advice on building a secure and resilient cyberspace.

The problem withf this, according to the Intelligence Security Committee, is that the government does not understand the nature and extent of cyber-attacks from other nation states such as Russia and China, which are focused on espionage and the acquisition of information. This suggests that nations may never fully open themselves up to each other, as they are still some distance from being able to trust one another.

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