A joint public/private sector cyber security initiative exposed a campaign of malicious emails targeting UK defence companies, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has revealed.
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On a visit to Estonia to share experience on cyber defence, he said the UK had set up a cyber security hub to share actionable information on cyber threats.
The initiative involves organisations from the UK defence, telecoms, finance, pharmaceutical and energy sectors, and was set up as part of efforts to make the UK more resilient to cyber attack.
Greater resilience of the UK as a whole to enable it to better protect its interests in cyberspace is one of the main objectives of the UK Cyber Security Strategy published last November.
Maude said through the cyber security hub, the UK's intelligence agency GCHQ was able to identify the malicious emails campaign and alert the defence companies that were being targeted.
"Partnership with industry is essential and we are raising awareness in businesses of the potential threat to reputation, revenues and intellectual property from cyber attack," he said.
There needs to be more alerting and greater awareness of attacks, he said, with private organisations working in partnership with each other, government and law enforcement agencies.
By sharing information and resources, "we can build up a better picture of the threats we’re facing and collectively fight a common challenge," he said.
The UK government plans to increase the scale of the cyber security information-sharing hub, moving to full operational capability later this year.
"Ultimately we want to see industry taking the lead on this important initiative so it’s led by industry for industry," said Maude.
The UK seeks to follow the model used in Estonia, where government and business are working closely together, the minister said.
Frank Coggrave, European general manger for digital investigation firm Guidance Software said the first results of the information-sharing hub is a good early indication of strength in numbers.
"Security should not be about competitive advantage, and this is an example of how, when public and private sector organisations pool resources, information and intelligence - we can bolster our defence against cyber attacks," he said.
As the world realises that mere protection is not good enough, incident-response needs to be a key priority, according to Coggrave.
"The more knowledge you have to inform your incident response plan, the better your strategy will be, so pooling resources and sharing information can only be a good thing,” he said.