cyber security

Government should consult more widely on cyber security, says NSSC

Warwick Ashford

Cyber security is a key element of the national security strategy and government should consult more external experts, says Margaret Beckett MP, chair of the National Security Strategy Committee (NSSC).

“I have a huge respect for the civil service, but they do like to control the information ministers receive,” she told a Westminster eForum seminar in London.


“As far as the NSSC is aware, there has not been much criticism of the national cyber security strategy, but the committee is urging government to include more external voices.”

Cyber security is the one area the NSSC believes it is important that the government draws on all sources of expertise.

Beckett said the joint parliament committee, tasked with examining the national security strategy, is concerned that the government tends to receive input only from government departments.

“While the government claims that it has consulted external experts, many of those experts would contest that,” she said.

The NSSC is also pushing for wider consultation with the UK public on issues of national security.

“In the broader national security context, we would like to see more public debate on what the UK’s place in the world should be. In the context of cyber security, we would like people to be made more aware of the risks and opportunities identified by government and what we as a country should be doing,” said Beckett.

National security strategy requires consultation and careful consideration

The NSSC would like government to take a much more strategic and long-term view in formulating the next national security strategy and to avoid the rush that was required in formulating the 2010 version.

“However, there is no indication of a more strategic approach to cyber protection, nor are discussions on the next national security strategy well underway as we hoped they would be by now,” said Beckett.

At this stage, she said, it seems unlikely that the new strategy will be completed before the next election.

However, she said for the next national security strategy the NSSC would like to see greater clarity and attention around how cyber attacks could affect the UK resilience in the face of natural disasters.

“It is not clear, for example, how cyber attacks could affect the armed forces’ ability to provide civil aid, and the NSSC is concerned about the apparent lack of contingency plans,” said Beckett.

The government's approach to cyber security and the defence of critical national infrastructure is not as ‘joined up’ as we would like it to be

Margaret Beckett MP, NSSC

The NSSC is also calling for greater attention to how cyber attacks could affect the UK’s overall defence capability.

“It appears that the government's approach to cyber security and the defence of critical national infrastructure is not as ‘joined up’ as we would like it to be,” said Beckett.

The next national security strategy could help by making it clearer where responsibility for each aspect of cyber risk resides. “The real risk is that issues will fall between the cracks,” she said.

Beckett said government cannot succeed without the input of UK industry, and while it has been seeking to engage industry, this element needs to be reflected in the next strategy document.

Equally, she said, the next national security strategy must address the shortage of cyber security skills and highlight the economic opportunities of cyber security as well as the threats.

Finally, Beckett reiterated the NSSC’s call for open public debate on the risks that threaten national security.

“We should be united in addressing the things that threaten our way of life, and cyber security is a key element ,” she said.


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