The National Security Council has released its security strategy that classifies cyber crime as one of the four highest priority risks.
Titled ‘A strong Britain in an age of uncertainty', the 39-page document looks at and evaluates all levels of national defences. It claims that the four highest priority risks for the next five years include: ‘international terrorism, cyber attack by other states and by organised crime and terrorists, international military crises and major accidents or natural hazards'.
Commenting on that, Nick Billington, UK managing director of BitDefender, welcomed the acknowledgement that cyber crime is a growing threat, particularly as its own research places the UK among the worst countries in the world for hosting phishing and malware attacks.
He said: “As our reliance on computers and networks increases so does our exposure to the criminals who mastermind major crime and fraud online. We estimate there to be in excess of 40 million malware samples in the wild currently, growing at a rate of 100,000 per week.
“We can't expect the Government to take sole responsibility for our online safety; people have to understand the threats and take steps to protect themselves from an area of crime that is almost certainly set to increase in the years to come.”
The focus of the report was welcomed within the security sector. Graeme Matthews, partner in Deloitte's cyber security team, said that as both the sophistication and volume of cyber attacks are increasing, there is increased dependence on technology.
Neil Fisher, vice president of global security solutions at Unisys, said: “I welcome the level of analysis coming out of the National Security Council. While it paints a grave picture of the threat facing the UK, it finally opens up a debate that takes us beyond military and ‘kinetic' conflict. We urgently need to review and address how we protect the infrastructure that society depends upon at home as well as overseas.
“As the pace of change increases each year and the multiple demands on Government and private sector to counter these threats escalates exponentially, we need to create consistent, centralised national strategies.
“These should be led by foreign and domestic policy with close support from international development, justice, law enforcement, business, intelligence agencies and lastly, the military. By tightening and organising our response to future security threats in a holistic and global way, we can fight from a position of strength.”
William Beer, director of the OneSecurity department at PwC, welcomed the extra awareness and resources that are being made available to help protect the public and private sectors. He said: “Government and corporate computer networks are being targeted daily by a growing number of well-resourced and highly sophisticated cyber criminals and even state-led operations across the world.”
Ollie Hart, head of public sector at Sophos, said that the company ‘wholeheartedly' welcomed the Government's decision to invest in an enhanced national cyber security strategy and said that UK citizens should feel reassured that the Government is clearly taking the cyber threat seriously.
He said: “The threat is a real one, not only for the UK but for governments around the world. In addition, cyber security must support the general economic development of the UK moving forward, making it more than just a question of defending against cyber terrorism but of also providing economic confidence and stability to the nation.
“What is more, the budget cuts being announced this week are likely to result in an increase in online citizen transactions with the Government, putting our personal information and our businesses, as well as our national security at greater risk. It is therefore imperative that the safeguards organisations put in place provide them with peace of mind that they won't be a target and that the overall national cyber security strategy is watertight.”
Carl Leonard, senior security research manager at Websense, welcomed the actions of the Government to take the threat of cyber crime so seriously, calling it a ‘serious and growing problem that deserves our attention'.
Dr. Paul Judge, chief research officer and VP of cloud services at Barracuda Networks, also accepted the efforts to update and focus defences against cyber crime and cyber attacks.
He said: “Cyber criminals have already established cross-border alliances and trading markets to carry out and monetise their attacks. Governments must do the same in order to effectively pursue these criminals. Even in the midst of budget cuts, governments must also invest in improving the technical skill sets within law enforcement agencies in order to prevent and pursue these criminals in this electronic war field.”
However Ian Jackson, managing director at Imerja,said that the Government has finally recognised the growing threat of cyber attacks to national security, claiming that warnings of the potential risk have largely fallen on deaf ears.
“It's reassuring that this threat is now being taken seriously. We're obviously not saying that the everyday worms and viruses that affect personal computers should be classed in the same league as terrorism or pandemics, but targeted attacks to the computer networks of government organisations, in particular, could compromise the national infrastructure and should be seen in this light,” he said.