Cyber attack threat is ignored

Cyber attack threat is ignored

Government comes under fire for highlighting threat but not implementing policy

Companies that form key elements of the UK’s critical infrastructure have criticised the government’s new national security strategy for failing to address the growing threat of cyber attacks.

The strategy recognises the increasing danger of electronic crime to financial and energy networks ­ but was unveiled in the same week the Home Office has again delayed funding a unit that would help protect these systems.

The security report, launched last week by prime minister Gordon Brown, highlights cyber attacks as a particular risk.

“As economies and societies grow increasingly dependent on national and global electronic information and communication systems, it becomes even more important to manage the risk of disruption to their integrity and availability through cyber attack, whether terrorist, criminal or state led,” says the strategy.

But Brown failed to lay out any policy for how the government will protect the country from cyber attacks, said David Roberts, chief executive of blue-chip user group The Corporate IT Forum.

“While we are pleased that the government is alert to the significant threats posed by cyber crime, we are very disappointed that it has not outlined any stronger initiatives to tackle it. Action is needed now,” he said.

The delay in funding a much-needed e-crime co-ordination unit to liaise with industry raises serious questions, said George Hazell, chief security officer at Alliance & Leicester.

“There remains little evidence that the government is committed to providing the law enforcement authorities with what they need to better protect the UK citizen against any form of financial cyber crime,” he said.

Formation of the unit was recommended by a House of Lords committee in August last year.

One source in the energy sector told Computing in December that the UK’s efforts to protect its critical infrastructure was like a “neighbourhood watch” programme, after MI5 wrote to firms warning that Chinese firms could be spying on their networks.

Companies became increasingly fearful about cyber attacks after a sustained attack on Estonian banks last summer crippled financial systems for two months.