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January 11, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 10:34am

Ex defence secretary tells hacked firms to go public if they are victims of cyber crime

News: Liam Fox also wants a single minister to deal with cyber security.

By Charlotte Henry

Dr. Liam Fox will today call for cyber security to come under the remit of a single minister in the government, and add his voice to growing calls for the introduction of a new law that would force companies to inform shareholders and other stakeholders, such as customers with accounts, if it is hacked.

Speaking at the defence and security think tank the Royal United Servicse Institute (RUSI), the former defence secretary will say: "Although we talk about cybercrime, cyber espionage, and cyber warfare as being separate entities they are in fact part of a continuum."

He will say that firms that do not adequately protect themselves against cyber attacks are not just putting themselves at risk, but are a risk to national security.

The Conservative backbencher will also highlight cyber espionage, particularly in regards to IP theft. He will say that China "represents hacking on an industrial scale in attempts to gain access to market information that might prove valuable at a national level."

Turning his attention to cyber war, Fox will warn that "Terror groups have been increasingly involved in projects to make drones ineffective or, worse, to turn them around and send them back to return fire on their senders."

Instead of developing like for like capabilities, he will say that the Chinese invest "in developing systems that will deny America and its allies access to their own systems and capabilities."

Significantly for someone who has led the Ministry of Defence, Fox will warn that the growing cyber threat "may mean that we will have to disinvest in some of the things that we can see, our traditional military capabilities, so that we can invest in things that we cannot see, ie cyber capabilities."

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Fox will also call for the UK "to develop proper cyber doctrine in the way that we did in the emergence of the nuclear era."

In response to this escalating number of problems, Fox will say that firms need to increase screening and training of their staff, and protect their supply chains.

He will also call for a change in the law, saying "I believe the government needs to change the law to make it illegal to be hacked without informing shareholders and other stakeholders."

Fox also believes that "any organisation that does business with government should have a minimum defined level of cyber security or they will be excluded from government contracts."

In 2014, the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition brought in rules that stipulated that suppliers must comply with the new Cyber Essentials controls if bidding for some government contracts.

Fox also wants to see Whitehall and government reformed in order to better deal with the growing risk of cyber threats. "I would like to see all government cyber activity, including both its offensive and defensive capabilities concentrated in one place and answerable to a single ministerial portfolio," he will say.

At the moment responsibility for the issues around cyber security rest with a variety of different departments, including the Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office, the Foreign Office and Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

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