Opinion: Cyber security seems to be increasingly on Whitehall's radar

Ask not what your country can do for you

Those who have been in the IT industry for a long time may be pleasantly surprised to see just how seriously the Government is now taking cyber-security.

Having not really been on the political radar to any huge extent for years, the recent spate of attacks on national infrastructure, and the more frivolous acts of ‘cyber terrorism’ by the likes of LulzSec, seem to have pushed cyber-security up the agenda in Whitehall.

Some may consider previous statements of intent from the Government as lip service, but even cynical observers will raise their eyebrows to read that the Coalition considers online attacks to be of equal gravity to the threat posed by nuclear weapons – and is looking at the issue in an increasingly militaristic way.

It’s actually a stronger stance than we’ve been used to hearing from even the security software publishers, who for years have been the most vocal group on the issue, pointing out the dangers of international cyber-attacks and highlighting rising malware levels.

Indeed, the practice of cyber-defence has traditionally been more or less exclusively the domain of the IT industry in the UK – whether it’s retailers selling software, resellers installing server protection, or the manufacturers of the IT hardware and software itself.

Now the Government is taking the issue seriously, it is looking to the trade to help it, and to some extent educate it on what to do.

The message from Francis Maude, the Government’s cyber-security Minister, is that this is a huge issue – but that the IT industry will need to play a significant role in getting some better defences together.

It’s almost an extension of the densely rhetoric phrase ‘big society’ which according to most people’s best attempts at translating it, means ‘not relying on the state for everything.’

Though in this case it appears to be less to do with limited resources, and more to do with the fact that central government doesn’t really have much of a history of dealing with this sort of thing, and perhaps doesn’t have all the answers.

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