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November 29, 2011

Tony Blair’s Defence Secretary criticises new Cyber Security Strategy

Lord Reid of Cardowan has criticised the Government's Cyber Security Strategy investment as 'lacking depth' with too little focus on growth and innovation

By Allan Swann

Tony Blair’s Defence Secretary has criticised the Government’s new Cyber Security Strategy (CSS), stating that the £650m of expenditure set aside for the next four years is poorly distributed and doesn’t do enough to foster technological innovation and growth.

Rt Hon Lord Reid of Cardowan, Former Defence and Home Secretary under Tony Blair, was the main keynote speaker at the Cyber Security Summit 2011 after the Government’s Head of Cybersecurity, Minister Francis Maude, pulled out. While he praised much of the document, he believes it has its holes.

"It’s a good first step, but it should be the first step of many. This has the beginnings of a ‘grand strategy’," he said.

Mr Maude unveiled the Cyber Security Strategy last Friday – the first update of the document since 2009.

Lord Reid, while praising the document’s aim in balancing the "enriching and endangering power of cyberspace", he believes it is not ambitious enough to grow the UK economy. Cyberspace is now so important it permeates the whole economy at every level, from the nation’s vital financial infrastructure, right down to its industrial processes. Lord Reid added that the recent industrial cyber attack on an American water plant is worrying for the future.

Earlier speaker Bill McLuggage, the Deputy Government CIO, spoke earlier on the scale of the UK’s reliance on cyber space for the economy. The UK’s online economy is one of the largest in the world – £100bn. 6% of the UK’s GDP is produced here and it has created 365,000 jobs in the last five years. 520,000 Britons did their tax return online last year, making HM Revenue and Customs Website one of the busiest in the country.

Lord Reid believes this is where the Government’s focus should be, and went on to criticise the financial distribution of the CSS as skewed towards the military and intelligence, rather than the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

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59% of the Government’s £650m is heading to intelligence (including GCHQ), 14% to the Ministry of Defence, 10% to law enforcement and 2% to BIS.

"We can’t catch up if our investment lacks depth… Technology should be the essential element of our growth strategy," he said.

He believes the government needs to produce a Cyber Security Strategy ‘doctrine’ – the conceptual framework for dealing with new threats. Lord Reid would also like to see principles for international cooperation formalised and more of the Government’s focus being on learning and innovation amongst entrepreneurs, lest the UK lose its status as an advanced technology hub.

"Despite this, the document is a huge step forward," he said.

This focus on business would see the creation of ‘Cyber Enterprise Zones’, similar to a Californian initiative which saw the Government incentivise innovation through an organised incubator mode which nurtures small and medium enterprise. This would also see the Government offer free advice and open source tools development for this purpose.

Further pushing this business innovation theme, he wants to see the National Security Council’s mandate to include economic directives, as its American counterpart does.

"If we do this right, we will be building a fifth estate."

Email:allan.swann@industryreview.com
Twitter:@allanswann

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