The UK and India are expected to strike a deal to become trusted partners in the growing battle against cyber criminals and nation states, prime minister David Cameron has said.
Reuters reports that the UK hopes that by setting up a joint task force, it can safeguard personal data of millions of the UK population, as a vast amount of information including bank files and NHS data are stored on Indian servers. Experts believe that these servers are at risk of cyber attacks.
The new agreement is expected to be sealed in a meeting between Cameron and the Indian prime minister Manmahon Singh in New Dehli, as part of the UK prime minister's three-day trade and investment trip to India.
"The two leaders are expected to agree a substantial strengthening of practical co-operation between British and Indian authorities to increase the security of British and Indian computer networks and to help defend them against cyber attacks by terrorists, criminals and hostile states," Cameron's office said in a statement.
Cameron told reporters that the reason for the partnership with other countries including India has two benefits.
"[First], other countries securing their data is effectively helping us secure our data," he said. "Second, I think this is an area where Britain has some real competitive and technology advantages."
Cameron declined to say if he was striking a deal with India because of worries of a cyber threat from China, which is frequently accused of sponsoring cyber attacks against foreign interests.
"The threat in terms of cyber security comes from all sorts of different places and organisations – a lot of it is criminal," he said. "Hacking bothers me wherever it comes from."
In October last year, RSA executive chairman Art Coviello revealed how criminals and nation states were working together to launch cyber attacks.
UK officials say another reason the government wants to co-operate with India on cyber security is its growing online population, which is expected to be 300 million users by 2015.
The new deal will include the creation of a joint task force to exchange and share information about identifying and countering threats. Other aspects of the deal include training exchanges in cyber forensics and other specialist areas of detection as well as regular meetings between leaders in cyber security research.
Two years ago, a report based on government figures suggested that cyber crime was costing the UK economy £27bn a year, though it is unclear how this figure was calculated.
Following the report, the Ministry of Defence said it was facing a "continuous battle" in cyber space with 1,000 attacks detected and blocked in the space of a year.
To tackle the growing amount of cyber threats, the government pledged to invest £650m over four years from 2010 on its cyber security strategy. Despite criticism for the strategy being "inadequate" and moving at a "glacial pace", cabinet office minister Francis Maude said that the strategy has put the UK in a much stronger position and is better able to deal with cyber threats than it was in 2011.
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