Article

U.K. security must improve in time for 2012 Olympics, says Blunkett

Ron Condon, UK Bureau Chief
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett opened the Infosecurity Europe conference in London with a call for government and business to give greater attention to cybercrime threats, especially in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

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He said the upcoming summer Olympic Games, due to take place in London, could give the U.K. an opportunity to demonstrate its ability to manage threats and provide a good working and living environment, but they could also be used by terrorists to expose security lapses.

Blunkett specifically alluded to Ghostnet, a suspected cyberespionage network that was recently exposed by the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies, along with researchers from the SecDev group, a think tank based in Ottawa. According to the Munk research, more than 1,295 computers have been infected in 103 countries, possibly at the instigation of the Chinese government. Targets included ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media and NGOs.

Blunkett warned that few in the government gave much thought to the threats that could come over the Internet. For instance, he cited the government's recently published Contest Strategy for Protecting Britain. The plan for countering terrorism, he said, had completely failed to give any mention of the cyberthreat.

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The private sector is no better, he added, with many people viewing fraud losses as a cost of doing business, and utility bosses dismissing the danger of a cybercrime or cyberattack as "out of hand."

Blunkett said that although the U.K. has plenty of agencies to fight cybercrime and other Web-based threats, he wanted to see more collaboration between them. The former Home Secretary also condemned the "benign view we have of hackers," and called for a more stringent punishment regime against those who hack systems.

The 2012 Olympics, he noted, present both a challenge and an opportunity. "We need to focus on risk management. There is potential for a cyberattack in 2012 that would seriously damage our image around the world, for instance if ticketing, transport or hotel bookings were disrupted," he said. ""But if we can show we are a safe environment for activity on the Web, and that we are ahead of the game, then the Olympics could serve as a major economic driver."

Blunkett said that he would be appealing to government to pull together the variety of agencies engaged in tacking e-crime so that they could "work coherently and act cooperatively."


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