The head of the government's communications intelligence agency, GCHQ, has warned of a growing threat to the UK's network infrastructure and called for a "holistic" response to the potential danger posed by both criminals and hostile foreign governments.
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Speaking to the International Institute for Strategic Studies ahead of next week's planned Strategic Defence and Security Review, GCHQ director Iain Lobban called for government and communications firms to work together to counter the threat.
Lobban said that the growth of the Internet in importance to government and business had rendered the UK increasingly vulnerable to attacks by both cyber-criminals and foreign agencies.
He claimed government agencies were already experiencing significant attacks, with up to 20,000 malicious emails found on government networks per month, while businesses are being regularly targeted for their intellectual property.
"It's not a narrow security issue for the spooks but a wide economic issue," said Lobban. "In order to flourish, a knowledge economy needs to protect from exploitation the intellectual property at the heart of the creative and high-tech industry sectors."
"Cyberspace lowers the bar for entry to the espionage game, both for for states and criminal actors," he added.