The Chancellor, Philip Hammond announced on 1st November 2016 the UK Government’s plans for a new £1.9 billion strategy to defend the nation against cyber attack over the next five years, as well as outlining a more attacking stance on going after those who would seek to do the nation harm.
Philip Hammond added, “If we do not have the ability to respond in cyberspace to an attack which takes down our power network – leaving us in darkness or hits our air traffic control system grounding our planes – we would be left with the impossible choice of turning the other cheek, ignoring the devastating consequences, or resorting to a military response,” Philip Hammond said as he described the National Cyber Security Strategy in London. “That is a choice we do not want to face and a choice we do not want to leave as a legacy to our successors.” He went on to say, “Trust in the internet and the infrastructure on which it relies is fundamental to our economic future.”
The Government announcement follows the recent speech from the National Cyber Security Centre’s Director General, Andrew Parker and warnings from the head of MI5 about the increasingly aggressive behaviour in cyberspace from nation state threats from countries like Russia. Russia is suspected of trying to influence the US elections by creating distrust in the electoral process, plus the usual espionage, subversion and cyber attacks. All in all – the stakes continue to escalate in volume and severity of national scale. Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin has dismissed the allegation.
In addition, the recent targeting of WIFI-enabled domestic appliances to create a DDoS attack to seek to disable specific websites via the Internet of Things (IoT), has started to create uncertainty in the minds of the public as to what they can trust with technology. The situation is not helped by a lack of education around the need to create fresh passwords on receipt to avoid default factory settings which can be overrun. Neither is the situation helped if the manufacturers install a factory setting password which in itself cannot be changed.
Web founder Tim Berners-Lee attending the Open Data Institute’s forum on the same day commented in a Radio 4 interview: “The United Kingdom needs to have a strong but responsible and accountable police force, and [cyber-intelligence agency] GCHQ needs to have the tools to be able to defend us and defend the open internet.”
What the £1.9 billion is expected to translate into is specialist police units to tackle organised online gangs, some money towards education and the training of 50 cyber security specialists at the National Cyber Security Centre.
Where historically, it was the Americans who sought to confront Russia, the UK’s desire to have a visibly active stance should be welcomed by UK business, although much will depend on whether we get enough ‘boots on the ground’ or ‘hands on the keyboards’ to counter the high volume of lower end cyber attacks which has been identified as a real need.