The growth of the internet has transformed our everyday lives and today around six per cent of the UK’s GDP is generated by the internet. With this figure set to grow – making it larger than the utilities or agriculture sectors – the internet boom is predicted to create 365,000 jobs over the next five years.
But with greater openness, interconnection and dependency comes greater vulnerability. The threat to our national security from cyber attacks is real and growing. Organised criminals, terrorists, hostile states and ‘hacktivists’ are all seeking to exploit cyber space to their own ends and online crime, including intellectual property theft, costs the UK economy billions each year. We must take steps to preserve this growth; by tackling cyber crime and bolstering our defences, ensuring that confidence in the internet as a way of communicating and transacting remains.
This is why our National Security Strategy ranked cyber security as a tier 1 national security priority, and why the Government has committed £650m over the next four years to the National Cyber Security Programme to reinforce its cyber defences. The Cyber Security Strategy was published on 25 November 2011 and sets out how the UK will support economic prosperity, protect national security and safeguard the public’s way of life by building a more trusted and resilient digital environment.
The Strategy also details how we will realise the full benefits of a networked world, from protecting the public from online fraud to securing critical infrastructure against cyber attacks. It also includes an Implementation Plan, which explains how the £650 million will be used, as well as which departments are responsible for which actions.
The Government cannot tackle this challenge alone however. The private sector – which owns, maintains and creates most of the very spaces we are seeking to defend – has a crucial role to play too. The Strategy heralds a new era of unprecedented cooperation between the Government and industry on cyber security, working to make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business.
Work is already underway to deliver the objectives of the strategy. Although the investment by the Government is considerable, the funding will only go part of the way to achieving this transformation of our national cyber security. Partnership with the private sector is vital to bring change across all sectors of the UK economy and society. Additionally, due to the global nature of the internet, international cooperation and agreements will be vital in preserving this critical resource that so many nations around the world have come to depend on.
Over the course of the coming months and years, the UK will be working on cyber crime through the development and proliferation of so-called ‘cyber specials’ – expert police to help combat cyber crime; promoting public awareness of cyber security threats; working with the private sector to exchange information and intelligence on these threats and taking steps to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of developing cyber security solutions in an ever-changing, technologically dependent world.
The Office of Cyber Security & Information Assurance (OCSIA) supports the Minister for the Cabinet Office, the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP and the National Security Council in determining priorities in relation to securing cyberspace. The unit provides strategic direction and coordinates action relating to enhancing cyber security and information assurance in the UK.