The UK must be able to retaliate in kind against cyber attacks, the Chancellor of the Exchequer says in the new national cyber security strategy.
Philip Hammond adds that hostile ‘foreign actors’ are developing techniques that threaten the country’s electrical grid and airports.
The warning comes within a speech describing how the government plans to spend a previously announced £1.9 billion sum on cybersecurity.
It also addresses ways to tackle cyber-scammers and defend businesses.
Hammond says, ‘If we do not have the ability to respond in cyberspace to an attack which takes down our power network – leaving us in darkness or hits our air traffic control system grounding our planes – we would be left with the impossible choice of turning the other cheek, ignoring the devastating consequences, or resorting to a military response.
‘That is a choice we do not want to face and a choice we do not want to leave as a legacy to our successors.’
The strategy will help grow specialist police units that tackle organised online gangs. Additionally, some cash will also go towards education and training of cyber security experts.
In response to the national cyber security strategy announcement, Richard Horne, cyber security partner at PwC, thinks the UK is leading the way with cyber initiatives.
Horne says, ‘However, the government cannot protect the UK alone. Businesses must understand the cyber threat their organisation faces and take strong protective action themselves.
‘A recent PwC study found that UK organisations doubled their information security budgets last year, spending £6.2 million on average. But despite this being over one and a half times more than their global counterparts (average £3.9 million), it’s concerning that they still aren’t seeing the return.
‘Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) don’t know how many cyber attacks they experienced last year and 17 per cent don’t know the likely source of the security incidents they faced.’
Horne believes that the cyber security strategy is not just about having more budget. UK organisations need to take a more strategic approach to how they spend their increased budgets to start to see a real uptick in security posture.
‘Only when UK organisations mirror the level of Government initiative and strategic investment will the UK be a secure place in today’s digital world.’
Nigel Hawthorn, chief European spokesperson at Skyhigh Networks comments, ‘Cyber security has traditionally been relegated from the boardroom to IT, but Hammond’s speech should provide the impetus to make it a company-wide endeavour.
‘Data is now the crown jewels of any firm and CEOs can no longer expect others, whether Government or individual departments, to protect them. They are liable for any data that is compromised when in their care and that means they must adopt the technology and processes that ensures its safeguarding.
‘In cyber security we are all responsible for taking the best care we can of our data assets, which contributes to the nation’s security.’