Hague To Splash £2m A Year On International Cyber Security Centre


Hague announces Centre for Global Cyber-Security Capacity Building as he calls on nations to work together to fight cyber threat

Foreign secretary William Hague today announced a new centre of excellence that will offer advice to other nations on cyber security.

The Centre for Global Cyber-Security Capacity Building will receive £2 million backing from the government every year. It will be based at one of the eight universities selected in April to be awarded ‘Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research’ status.

It will seek to bring together ideas from governments, researchers, think tanks and the private sector as the UK wants to be at the centre of international coordination on cyber threats.

Cyber security assistance

security malware - Shutterstock: © Marcio Jose Bastos Silva“Cyberspace 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,” Hague said.

“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.

“It has never been easier to become a cyber criminal than it is today. It is now possible to buy off-the-shelf malicious software, designed to steal bank details, for as little as £3,000, including access to a 24-hour technical support line.

“I see frequent evidence of deliberate and organised attacks against intellectual property and government networks in the United Kingdom.”

Hague explained how a “well-protected international company” was breached via a “foreign subsidiary”.

Hackers used spear phishing to breach that group’s network, stealing “many thousands of passwords”, including those for the parent company’s file servers. “From that file server, they were able to steal 100GB of the parent company’s sensitive intellectual property, roughly equivalent to a document made up of 20 million pages of A4,” the foreign secretary added.

Hague announced the centre at the Budapest Conference on Cyberspace, where he talked of the need for cyber hotlines between governments to communicate on threats, although the foreign secretary did not call for any new treaty. He did call for international consensus on rules of the road to guide future behaviour on the Internet.

Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief, also revealed that the EU is preparing to release its cyber security strategy within the next several months.

Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, added: “Protecting ourselves from cyber threats is only ever a partial solution. It matters that those with whom we connect are secure too.

“Today with over two billion people online – and billions more set to join them in the next decade – we are all stakeholders in the internet and must all invest in its successful future.

“The quicker that cyber-security capacity can grow globally, the faster our online community become more secure.”

The Coalition has a £650 million pot for fighting cyber crime, on top of what investment was already there when the extra funding was announced. It has continued to pump money into various initiatives.

Just last month, GCHQ set up an academic research institute to look into the “science of cyber security”, backed by a £3.8 million grant.

In July, Maude announced two Centres of Doctoral Training in Cyber Security. Costing between £3m and £4m each, they will train postgraduates on a wide variety of cyber security skills and will run at UK universities that win out during a bidding process.

Whilst the government’s efforts on global cooperation on cyber have been lauded, it has been called on to make it simpler for law enforcement agencies to work across borders, given that cyber criminals are not constricted by national demarcations.

“We need ways for law enforcement agencies in different jurisdictions to work together to tackle a global issue rather than treating cyber crime as a local issue within their own jurisdiction,” Brian Honan, IT security expert at BH Consulting, told TechWeekEurope.

“We also have to acknowledge that even today certain countries still do not treat cyber crime with the seriousness it deserves or indeed see it as a crime.  While this situation exists criminals will continue to take advantage of those countries to target others.

“The main issue has not been lack of treaties but rather lack of support and providing resources to Computer Emergency Response Teams, police, Data Protection agencies and other law enforcement bodies.”

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