Does the UK attack other countries in cyberspace?

Yesterday, the British government published its cyber security strategy, announcing its intentions to create a central body to liaise with industry (the Office of Cyber Security or OCS) and a separate body, the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC), based at the the UK’s surveillance headquarters GCHQ in Cheltenham.

There has been a lot in the newspapers about this (see the article in The Register, for instance).

When I tuned into BBC Radio 4, I heard the mischievous presenter of the PM show, Eddie Mair, interviewing Security minister Lord West.

Baron West of Spithead appears in the headlines occasionally for putting his foot in his mouth (It was recently revealed that he placed a bet that the Labour Party he represents would lose the next general election, and in the past he has had to deny rumours that he is engaged in an affair with Anni-Frid Lyngstad – the brunette from Abba).

It is this capacity for public goofs which probably encouraged Eddie Mair to get into the following tussle during the radio show:


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Well, that’s cleared that up then.. ;-)

Joshing aside, one of the things I would really like to see is much more emphasis being put on raising awareness of internet threats and cybersecurity amongst the general population. There can be a tendency for governments (and Barack Obama’s recent speech on computer security was guilty of this) to emphasise the threat posed by other countries and terrorist groups who might use the internet for their own purposes.

My belief, however, is that there is a significant problem much closer to home. Over 99% of all spam is being sent from botnet computers owned by regular members of the public. Those computer users don’t know that their PCs have been hacked into, and are under the control of cybercriminals who are using them to spread spam, distribute malware, steal identities and launch distributed denial-of-service attacks.

Lets hope that the different strategies being run around the world to protect countries from interent attack don’t emphasise purely “cyberwarfare” but also look at they might clean up their own back yard.

You can read more about the National Cyber Security Strategy by visiting the Cabinet Office’s website. If it helps to better secure Britain from internet threats then it will have been a very good thing.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the cybersecurity industry, having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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