How many died when West London lost its networks?

As yet it is unclear how many lost their phone and broadband connections and for how long, as a result of the flood and fire at the Paddington exchange yesterday but it is reported to have affected over 400 exchanges. HMG has just released its long awaited Cyber Crime Strategy but we should never forget that fire, flood and digititis (finger trouble) still a more common threat to those who place over-reliance on technology than is criminal attack. Hence the need for anyone whose business, let alone life, depends on always-on adopt a genuinely multi-channel approach to resilience.

By multi-channel I mean separate landlines to separate operators with separate exchanges (not just unbundled lines to the same exchange), plus separate wireless services (fixed or mobile) to separate masts or satellites.   

I am lucky enough to live and work, for most of the time, in locations where such a strategy is not too difficult or expensive – even so I would be severely affected if the local BT exchange was put out of action – because of all the services running over unbundled lines that still route through it. The Paddington fire illustrates why this is such a risk.   

But also read the Home Office e-Crime strategy. It is good. The issue will be to ensure the political priority to ensure that it is taken seriously and implemented – especially the long overdue UK ratification of the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention – paragraph 121.

Interestingly the first comment received, when the Information Society Alliance – EURIM sent out a note telling its members of the publication of the strategy, was to point out that the strategy had been published as an unprotected .pdf file.

I am not sure which of the .pdf protection features  should have been activated, except perhaps that which prevents some-one passing a changed, as opposed to annotated,  version to colleagues – but it was an interesting comment – from some-one who otherwise liked what was said. Did it illustrate the narrowness of the security perspective of Home Office or of the person who made the comment? 

Either way the publication should be the start of a holistic debate, leading to a rationalisation and integration of initiatives, national and international.

Hence also the importance of the E-Crime Reduction Partnership which met on Monday, chaired by the Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, to discuss the scoping exercise to make sense of the current situation – from the scale and nature of the problem to who is currently doing what.

My last published attempt at such an exercise was in 2007, although I did an unpublished update for delegates at the ACPO E-Crime conference in 2008. I am more than delighted to be able to pass on the torch on this one. Those interested in the back up material to that attempt should visit the previous work site of the EURIM E-Crime Group. This also has the texts of the reports from the ground breaking EURIM-IPPR study into Partnership Policing for the Information Society – which was carried out in co-operation with those then working on the Home Office strategy.

What is different now?

The big difference is that cost of inaction has become so great that what was then politically impossible – because it cut across departmental boundaries – has now been achieved: complete with timetabled action plans.        

It is an impressive report. Do read it. Then help make it happen.