Reviewing its 2015 National Security Strategy, UK Gov says cyber still important

News by Roi Perez

Reaffirming its position on cyber-security, the UK government has said in its 2015 National Security Strategy that it's still committed to maintaining strong cyber-security defences for the UK as a whole.

The UK Government has released its report on the implementation of the 2015 National Security Strategy, in which it recognises cyber-threats are still there and growing, and reaffirms its commitment to maintaining strong cyber-security defences for the UK as a whole.

The report reads, “We are committed to maintaining a United Kingdom that is prosperous and confident in the digital world, while remaining secure and resilient to cyber-threats. We are working with industry, especially communications service providers, to make it significantly harder to attack UK internet services.”

Adding, “The range of cyber-threats and cyber-actors threatening the UK has grown significantly – both from state and non-state actors. The UK increasingly relies on networked technology in all areas of society, business and government. This means that we could be vulnerable to attacks on parts of networks that are essential for the day-to-day running of the country and the economy.”

Ensuring the show keeps running, the new National Cyber Security Centre, will be assisting in investigations like it is currently doing with the Tesco Bank hack and developing best practices in both public and private companies, like it has done with HMRC and its implementation of DMARC and HSTS.

Theresa May's administration updated the National Cyber Security Strategy in November 2016. The updated strategy, presented by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, did not contain any new spending pledges from when his predecessor George Osborne announced the £1.9 billion investment as part of ex-PM David Cameron's government.

However it does include an increase in focus on investment in automated defences to combat malware and spam emails also places a greater emphasis on active cyber-defence, though the government has yet to offer an exact definition of what this means, and how the government plans to carry this out.

May comments in the report: “We continue to invest in cyber-detection and response, as attacks against the UK continue to rise. Over the last year, we have developed new technical capabilities to improve our ability to detect and analyse sophisticated cyber-threats. Law enforcement continues to work with industry partners to increase specialist capability and expertise, as well as providing additional training in digital forensics. We are also continuing to progress our Active Cyber-Defence measures against high-level threats, by strengthening UK networks against high volume/low sophistication malware.”

As well as this, there is a greater emphasis on building skills and research. The skills gap has long been a key problem in the industry, and the UK government wants to promote cyber-security education to help stop this.

The government has set is sights on the younger generation, teenagers in schools, going all the way up to university courses. The government has announced plans for two training centres in London and Cheltenham, a £10m Innovation Fund and an SME bootcamp.

The report reads, “A new Cyber-Security Skills Strategy is now under development in Bletchley Park, which will set out how we will work with industry and academic providers to secure a pipeline of competent cyber-security professionals. GCHQ's CyberFirst scheme was established to identify, support and nurture the young cyber talent the UK will need in the digital age. In 2016, we announced a major expansion to the scheme, including a programme in secondary schools, with the aim of having up to a thousand students involved by 2020. The first cohort of 14-17 year olds will begin training under this programme in 2017.”

The National Crime Agency (NCA) and the police have increased their numbers of ‘cyber-specials' working alongside current officers to tackle cyber-crime, and the report says they are “making good progress towards a target of 80 cyber-specials in post by the end of March 2018”. Likewise, a new Dark Web Intelligence Unit has been formed in partnership with the NCA to tackle criminal activities which happen on the dark web.

“The upgrade of its capability will continue throughout the 2016-17 financial year and beyond leading to significantly greater technical capability. This will enable the use of multiple data sources, offer new and different types of analysis, and coordinate with multiple agencies to deal with issues at scale,” the report says.

Finally, the report revealed the government's plan to develop a new more-secure cross-government implementation of the current Government Secure Intranet (GSI). The report says this is to “enable more efficient handling of national security matters.” No timetable was given for when it will be live, but the report highlights that the new network is still only a proof-of-concept.

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