Business Secretary Vince Cable called for new cyber security measures in response to a growing threat against the UK's IT systems. He voiced his concerns at a recent meeting of intelligence experts and government regulators. According to Cable, potential cyber-attacks now pose a very real threat to the normal operation of the banking system, railways, mobile communications and a number of things most of us are involved in on a daily basis.
In voicing is concern, Mr Cable referenced a 2012 cyber-attack that shut down 30,000 computers belonging to Saudi Arabia's Aramco oil company. The attack was perpetrated by someone with the credentials to install a virus that wiped out a tremendous amount of data, including important corporate documents, e-mails and spreadsheets.
Cable also spoke about recent attacks experienced by a number of banks in the US. He noted that the increasing sophistication of modern networks is creating more vulnerabilities that need more sophisticated security measures.
The Secretary told the group that consumers are demanding faster and more powerful communication systems involving everything from their hosting companies to ISPs to the local data centre on the edge of town. And with that increased demand comes more complex systems with more vulnerabilities. Cable stressed how important it is to make sure that “industries providing essential services such as power, telecommunications and banking are adequately protected to avoid disruption to our everyday lives.”
During the meeting, the government made three pledges regarding cyber security improvement for the future:
- increased system testing through more live exercises
- induction of enhanced security standards measured against GCHQ
- increased information sharing among the various stakeholders.
Government regulators also pledged to work closely with commercial enterprises that may have significant contributions to make to national cyber security. The idea is to take advantage of all the best each stakeholder has to offer and combine it into a comprehensive cyber security plan that benefits everyone.
The IT Trade-Off
What we are seeing in regards to cyber security and advanced computer systems should not be a surprise. One of the fundamental laws of technology states that the more complex a system is the more vulnerabilities are created by that system. It certainly holds true in the world of information technology and global network communications. Never before have the world's IT systems been as sophisticated as they are today – never before have they been more vulnerable.
This seems to suggest that greater cooperation is needed among the public and private sectors in order to deal with ever-greater threats. That cooperation will have to include better communication, better training and a willingness to listen to and develop new ideas, regardless of where they come from.
If we are to maintain a level of security that will prevent widespread network disruptions, we must be willing to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. The government is on the right track thus far; let's hope they continue to stay on it.
1. BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26046720