Cybersecurity measures to combat the internet’s dark side
The internet has transformed the way we work and the way we live our lives today. We use it to shop, to pay bills, to keep in touch with friends and family across the world. In Britain, six per cent of our gross domestic product is generated online and this year online retail sales will top £50 billion. At the same time, cyber crime costs the British economy billions of pounds each year.
The internet has been an unprecedented engine for global development on every level. But there is a darker side to it, and the Government believes it is time to shine a strong light on those shadows.
To that end, a year ago the Government launched the National Cybersecurity Programme. We have invested £650 million over four years to make Britain the pre-eminent safe space for e-commerce and intellectual property online and to help create an open, stable and vibrant cyberspace whose social and economic benefits are available for all. As the Secretary of State responsible for GCHQ, I see every day how critical this work is. But I also understand that unless we continue to lead the debate on Cyberspace – including on security – internationally, this investment will never be enough.
In October, I announced Foreign Office funding to restore and preserve Bletchley Park. I met some of the heroic Bletchley Park veterans whose skill and innovation are a lesson to us today. I looked to the future by launching new, and intensifying existing, recruitment campaigns to encourage the brightest and best young minds to join GCHQ and other intelligence agencies.
In September, together with ministerial colleagues at the Cabinet Office, Home Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, I launched the Cyber Security Guidance for Business to help ensure that FTSE 100 companies are prepared for the threats of the digital age and inspire confidence in Britain’s ability to protect our own assets. This confidence will convince investors and customers alike that we can look after their interests, helping British business grow in a time of unprecedented competition.
But without replicating these efforts internationally, such endeavours could be wasted. Just as the internet’s ability to connect people and businesses across the globe makes it so powerful, those links present threats to our security and they respect no boundaries. Our Government is, therefore, leading three crucial strands of international activity.
Firstly, we need to ensure that the internet remains an open and vibrant environment, delivering benefit for people across the world. Of course, good security is vital but it is an enabler, not an end in itself. This does not mean that we are soft – cyber criminals and cyber terrorists must have no haven offline as they must have no haven online. But we also believe that efforts to suppress the internet are wrong and are bound to fail over time. Governments that attempt this are erecting barricades against an unstoppable tide, and acting against their own long-term economic interests and their security. This debate needs to be part of international efforts to protect the future of cyberspace.
That is why I set out in March 2011 a set of seven principles on cyberspace and called for a new international consensus on rules of the road to guide future behaviour in cyberspace, and to combat the worst abuses of it, which were debated at the London Conference on Cyberspace in November of that year. I urged their adoption again in Budapest this October at a conference with governments, businesses and civil society from 60 different countries and look forward to reviewing progress in Seoul in 2013.
Secondly, we are helping build cybersecurity capacity abroad so that there are no backwaters where terrorists and criminals can operate. This summer one particular group targeted more than 200 email accounts at 30 of the UK’s 47 government departments, in a single attack. Without the very best security we have available in Britain, the attackers might have gained access to sensitive information.
Such attacks are criss-crossing the globe from North to South, East to West, in all directions, recognizing no borders, and with all countries in the line of fire. We are, therefore, drawing on Britain’s world-class capabilities, both in Government, academia and the private sector to support others as they develop their infrastructure. And that is why we announced in Budapest the creation of a new Global Cybersecurity Capacity Building programme. This practical initiative will help close the gap between supply and demand for capacity building and to ensure we make better use of the skills and resources available internationally.
Finally, none of this would be possible without building new partnerships to improve our collective ability to tackle the most difficult threats – including those from other countries. This Government has announced new cybersecurity agreements with the United States, France and India. We have held preliminary discussions with many more. We have played a leading role in advising the European Union and NATO on their cybersecurity strategies. We have also been prominent in discussions in the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on developing measures to build confidence and ‘rules of the road’ to bring greater stability and to reduce the risk of conflict in cyberspace between states. And, as the importance of cyberspace grows and the threats are magnified, we have vigorously pushed the need for improved international cyber communications channels.
This endeavour is not just about the future. It is about the present. We must act now to preserve the benefits of the internet we treasure and protect it from those who would threaten it. We will, therefore, continue to do all we can by promoting the social and economic benefits of the internet; developing our own skills, capabilities and defences at home, sharing that expertise with others abroad, and working with our allies to help win the argument that an open internet is the only way to support security and prosperity for all.