William Hague says nations are struggling against internet attacks, as he pushes for a cyber crime c
William Hague says nations are struggling against internet attacks, as he pushes for a cyber crime c

Foreign secretary William Hague has announced plans to open a European cyber crime centre and acknowledges the ongoing challenges that the internet faces.

Speaking at the Budapest Conference on Cyber Space, Hague urged "governments, international organisations, civil society and industry experts to come together in Budapest and address one of the great challenges of our time".

A year on from his notable speech at the London Conference on Cyber Space, this year's conference will pick up on themes raised then and look at the challenges and opportunities offered by the internet.

Hague said: “Cyber space is emerging as a new dimension in conflicts of the future. Many nations simply do not yet have the defences or the resources to counter state-sponsored cyber attack.

“If we do not find ways of agreeing principles to moderate such behaviour and to deal with its consequences, then some countries could find themselves vulnerable to a wholly new strategic threat: effectively held to ransom by hostile states.”

He went on to say that it has never been easier to become a cyber criminal, as malware can be bought easily and attacks are borderless ‘with all countries in the firing line'.

Hague also said that it was "essential that we demonstrate our commitment to building a secure, resilient, open and trusted global digital environment", where governments, industry and users of the internet could work together in a collective endeavour.

“I look forward to the Budapest Conference and hope that it will accelerate the international debate on cyber space and move it further towards a permanent footing. We must establish a balance of responsibility whilst protecting human rights so that information and ideas continue to flow freely, a principle which has contributed to making the internet the dynamic force it is now,” he said in a statement.

The foreign secretary also reaffirmed plans for an EC-sponsored cyber crime centre, which will be tasked with tackling rising levels of cyber crime within member states.

Previously announced in March this year, Hague said that the centre will receive £2 million in funding from the government annually and it will be based at one of eight universities awarded ‘Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research' status: Oxford, UCL, Southampton, Queen's Belfast, Lancaster, Bristol, Imperial College and Royal Holloway of London.

Paul Davis, director of Europe at FireEye, said: “Hague has certainly hit the nail on the head with his conclusion that it has never been easier to become a cyber criminal. While this was once the preserve of low-level hackers working alone, the emergence of determined ‘hacktivist' groups, off the shelf malware packages and readily available hacking tutorials has upped the threat level simply by making cyber crime an organised, mainstream and persistent activity.

“Hague's comments should serve as a catalyst for businesses everywhere – not just government organisations – to up their security game and remove the weaknesses that often lie within their own networks.”