UK: “Work with The Government on Protecting the Country Against Cyber Attack”

Prime Minister David Cameron met representatives of some of Britain’s biggest private companies to work with the Government on protecting the country against cyber attack. Foreign Secretary William Hague and Baroness Neville-Jones also took part in the talks at 10 Downing Street with firms including British Airways, Centrica, the National Grid, BT, Barclays, HSBC and GSK.

They agreed to form a working party to look at detailed proposals for action, drawing on expertise from the private sector.

It is impossible to put a precise figure on the financial cost inflicted by criminals using the internet, but it pointed out that there was a 14 per cent increase in online banking losses between 2008 and 2009, while 51 per cent of all malicious software threats ever identified occurred in 2009.

Cybercrime costs the UK more than £27billion a year, according to the government. Attacks on computer systems, industrial espionage and theft of company secrets costs businesses alone at least £21billion.

Security Minister Baroness Neville-Jones said the answer lies in private firms and the Government working together to disrupt criminal networks rather than prosecution. She said: ‘I don’t myself believe that the successful combating of this kind of crime is going to lie primarily through prosecutions. ‘I think it’s going to be through much better defences and disruption – screwing up their network. ‘It doesn’t have to be an offensive capability, but it’s perfectly possible as we know, just as an intruder can screw up a company’s network, the reverse can happen. ‘If you look at terrorism, if we’d relied on prosecution, we would have had lots of incidents by now. We have to rely to a very significant extent on actually disrupting the activity while in course.’ It was often difficult to establish who was behind the attacks, she said, adding: ‘They’re fearless. They don’t actually believe they’re going to be caught. ‘There are both private criminals, there are organised networks, and there are also, very clearly, state players. I think it’s very clear that we do take the issue of the international rules of the game very seriously.’

Baroness Neville-Jones went on: ‘You need to be able to take action to stop the effects of it well before you have necessarily achieved a degree of certainty about attribution. ‘I don’t wait before I take action. Action means that I’ve actually got to close my defences. A lot of modern security is about reducing vulnerability.’ And she added: ‘It’s a bit like terrorism in that, the more you know, the more frightening it becomes. It isn’t that the situation has changed, it’s that you know more about it.’

The report, by information consultants Detica for the Cabinet Office, showed cybercrime costs the UK almost £1,000 every second. But the Cabinet Office said that ‘in all probability, and in line with worst-case scenarios, the real impact of cybercrime is likely to be much greater’.

Many firms are reluctant to report cyber attacks out of a fear it would damage their reputation. Theft of intellectual property, such as designs, formulas and other company secrets, from businesses costs £9.2billion, with firms specialising in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, electronics, IT and chemicals being hit hardest. Industrial espionage, including firms spying on each other, costs £7.6billion.

Cyber crime also costs citizens £3.1billion a year and the government £2.2billion a year, the report said.

Cyber attacks on the UK’s information technology systems were identified in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) as one of the four most serious threats to national security, alongside terrorism, natural disasters and major accidents. Backed by £650million in new Government funding announced in the SDSR, the National Cyber Security Programme will develop means of responding to threats from states, criminals and terrorists.

Extract from DAILY MAIL

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