H4cked Off: Government DDoS gaffe is unacceptable

By Sooraj Shah
10 Dec 2012 View Comments
despair head in hands

I recently attended a press event in Westminster where "three senior government officials" were to brief journalists on the latest developments in cyber security.

These men, we were led to believe, are helping to ensure the UK is shielded from cyber threats, and that all risks are mitigated as best as they can be.

Further reading

Prior to the briefing, it had been brought to our attention that a year had passed since the UK's better-late-than-never Cyber Security Strategy had launched. As he talked through what they had found in the past year, one of the officials – who refused to give his name – said the government had seen a marked rise in the number of distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks over the past 12 months.

A member of the national press then stopped him and asked: "For those of us not clued up on these things, what is DDoS?"

"It is a distributed-denial of service attack," the senior government official said, before adding "it is just an inconvenience" and does "not lose [companies] any business".

My jaw dropped. This was a Bushism of epic proportions. (According to the Urban Dictionary, a Bushism is a completely mindless and idiotic statement, like the many hundreds uttered by one President George W Bush.)

I was fuming that this was the level of knowledge that a "senior government official" had on the topic. DDoS can cost businesses millions in lost revenue and lead to serious reputational damage.

Worst still, he was trying to simplify something to a journalist who did not know what it was about and rather than explaining what it was; he dismissed it as nothing interesting and called for the next question.

It really does make you think that these people who the public look to to defend the country from cyber threats are just shams. They might as well be paid actors.

I do believe a lot of good work has gone into the strategy, and I think that there are some very intelligent people working behind the scenes on ensuring the UK is able to resist attack - but the fact is that those are the people who are actually working on the strategy and not facing the public.

Those are the people who we'll probably never hear off because they are working endlessly to ensure we're safe. And instead, we only hear from the people who don't actually know anything about cyber security, but are given the titles of "chief" and "executive" because they're media trained.

Looks like that plan has worked out quite well... Oh wait.

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