Security chief warns of global cyberthreat

The Internet is in danger of becoming a threat to the future prosperity of the UK and its allies, the head of UK security agency GCHQ Iain Lobban has said in a rare speech.

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The Internet is in danger of becoming a threat to the future prosperity of the UK and its allies, the head of UK security agency GCHQ Iain Lobban has said in a rare speech.

GCHQ detects 20,000 malicious emails discovered inside government systems each month, 1,000 of which have been deliberately targeted to its departments, he said.

Intellectual property, both commercial and military is being stolen on a “massive scale”, citizens are now being attacked successfully for economic gain, and critical infrastructure is under threat. Worse still, in Lobban’s assessment, current security technology and policies is not up to the job of stemming this tide and perhaps never will be in their current form.

“Cyberspace is contested every day, every hour, every minute, very second,” said Lobban.

The net effect is that some e-government projects built around putting a host of citizen transactions online might have to be rethought and security infrastructure redesigned.  

“‘Patch and pray’ will not be enough. At the national level, getting the rest of Cyber - the more difficult 20 percent - right will involve new technology, new partnerships, and investment in the right people,” he said.

The speech comes only days before Foreign Secretary William Hague will set out the government plans to secure cyberspace. The EU is also planning to hold a 27-nation cybersecurity exercise in the first week of November, the first of what will likely become regular events for modelling attack-defence models.

The idea that UK departments face only 1,000 targeted emails per month is on the low side of some estimates, but only includes known attacks.

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