Home Office and Cabinet Office ministers agreed with the need to involve business and the public in tackling the existing and growing threat of cybercrime in a Conservative conference fringe meeting yesterday.
Home Office Minister James Brokenshire welcomed the increased interest in cybercrime over the last few years. The subject deserves attention, he explained, as around 8% of the UK’s GDP comes from the online environment, and this will only grow in the future.
“However you cut it, the cost of criminal activity online is significant” stated Brokenshire, who has ministerial responsibility for crime and security.
He cited Sony’s online Playstation systems being hacked as an example of how much money and reputation can be lost through cyber-attacks.
Next week will see the launch of the National Crime Agency, Brokenshire said, including the new National Cybercrime Unit; a centre of expertise which will support national and regional law enforcement.
Half of the National Crime Agency’s officers will be trained in cybercrime, he explained, and the College of Policing will be providing cybercrime training to 5000 police officers between now and 2015. This will mark a “step-change” in the UK’s capability of dealing with cybercrime, he believed.
“Almost every crime now has a digital footprint to it” he said, and this meant the need for government to form partnerships with experts from outside law enforcement is “absolutely key”.
“This threat is not simply ‘emerging’; it is there already” he stressed.
Dr Michael Westmacott, Security Consultant at IRM PLC and chair of BCS Young Professionals Information Security Group, described the barriers he had personally experienced in moving from working in information technology to information security.
He described some on-going issue that the BCS recognised, including the public struggle with understanding how information about them is stored on the internet and how it is stored.
“How do we make sure we can maintain a certain amount of control over these things?” for instance.
Another question is whether – or how – new contactless payment systems on new credit cards could be abused by cybercriminals, Dr Westmacott explained.
He also described the problems with the rapid push and pull of the technology market; new technologies are currently pushed out extremely quickly, with the public not having time to acclimatise or be made aware of new dangers.
Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith said the challenge is to tackle the breadth of the issue, as it really does affect every area of Government somehow. It is the coordination of the cross-government approach to tackling the challenge that the Cabinet Office is working to achieve, she said.
It is crucial that government, industry and ordinary citizen technology users all work together to tackle the problem Smith said, believing this represented both a great challenge and opportunity.
She described a number of actions the Government are currently taking to deal with the issue, including the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) and the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). Both of these form key pieces of the infrastructure needed, she said.
She also spoke about how the Government is seeking to improve computer skills “at every level” of education