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GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming opened the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC’s) flagship annual CyberUK conference today, with a reminder that cyber security issues affect everybody in the UK.
CyberUK was cancelled in 2020 and took place virtually last year, but returns for 2022 as an in-person event – although it is also now being livestreamed as well.
Reflecting on the past two years, Fleming said the shift to a life lived largely online had brought increased awareness of the vulnerabilities of supply chains, and heightened risk from online cyber criminal gangs and digital fraudsters.
Beyond the pandemic, he said, the commoditisation of data and the ongoing rise of China continues to challenge, while the war in Ukraine has further elevated the security discourse, although he conceded that the cyber warfare angle may have been “overhyped”.
“It all adds up to a context that emphasises the importance of digital connectivity to all of our lives,” said Fleming. “This is a trend that will keep accelerating, which means we must be able to trust the systems that connect us, that enrich our lives economically and socially, and it means that cyber clearly matters to everyone.”
Fleming echoed government ambition – as laid down in the National Cyber Strategy – for a collaborative, whole-of-society approach to cyber security in the UK.
“For the first time, we have a national strategy that covers the whole of cyber, from defence to cyber operations, and from cyber rules to skills,” said Fleming. “It recognises the role of citizens, businesses large and small, academia, NGOs, local and devolved governments, and it recognises that we must work together to raise cyber resilience. I think it genuinely breaks new ground, and while it inevitably talks to the threat, it makes it very clear that as a country, we must seize the opportunities from technology, confident that cyber remains a force for good.”
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Welcoming visitors to the event in Newport, South Wales, NCSC CEO Lindy Cameron reinforced these sentiments.
“If we have learned one thing over the last few years, it’s that cyber security is not a niche interest, it’s central to our way of life, whether it be shopping online without being scammed, protecting intellectual property, or national utilities keeping the lights on, we all rely on cyber security,” she said.
“In many ways – no pressure on you – everyone relies on us, and I think that’s on us as a community. We at [the] NCSC take that responsibility particularly seriously. NCSC was launched in 2017 as the team captain for cyber security in the UK. As part of GCHQ we have access to the most sophisticated capabilities, helping us in our mission to keep the UK the safest place to live and work online.
“But we can’t do that alone. Everyone and every organisation in the UK has its role to play in sharing knowledge, addressing systemic vulnerabilities, providing leadership on key national cyber security issues, and what we’re particularly proud of is the strength of the community, embodied by all of you here today,” said Cameron.
“The emphasis on collaboration is natural for all of us, it’s exhibited on a daily basis by all of us in this community,” she added. “We are a community that cares about the security and prosperity of the UK, and of our friends and of our allies.”