Deputy PM urges UK plc not to lose focus on cyber

In a speech at TechUK, deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden urges the cyber security community not to lose focus, and to do more to further collaboration across sectors

The government has called for renewed collaboration between government, the private sector and the cyber security industry to do more to help keep the UK safe from cyber criminal and hostile state threat actors, and for organisations across the country to take more accountability for strengthening their defences, all themes that have been high on the agenda this year.

In a speech delivered at a TechUK event on Thursday 7 September, deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden said the cyber security sector needed to adapt to respond to the “significant threats” that are out there, speaking specifically of the MOVEit file transfer breach, which has affected the personal data of approximately 60 million people, almost as many as the entire population of the UK.

“The United Kingdom is under constant cyber threat from hostile actors, both at home and abroad. Last year, we were the third most attacked country in the world after the United States and Ukraine,” said Dowden.

“But while the cyber threat we’re facing is very real, the action we’re taking has never been stronger. We are doggedly building our defences in the face of these attacks, and the whole of society needs to do its part. Only by sharing our expertise and experience can we continue to keep businesses and the public safe.”

In his the speech, Strategic priorities for cyber: The year ahead, Dowden summarised the progress made to date on the current National Cyber Strategy, which was published almost two years ago, with its key message being the importance of collaboration and a so-called “whole-of-society” response to cyber security threats rooted in this.

He noted promising progress on building digital and cyber skills in schools, and revealed the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC’s) Cyber Essentials course has now certified 140,000 new businesses since its inception, and 28,000 in the past 12 months – the Electoral Commission notwithstanding.

Looking ahead to 2024, Dowden trailed the theme of next year’s NCSC annual conference, CyberUK 24 – which will bear the tagline, Future tech, future threat, future ready.

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Taking place in Birmingham from 13 to 15 May 2024, CyberUK 24 will centre on an examination of how the cyber security sector can work together to combat future threats in the service of making the UK “the safest place to live and work online”, a long-favoured motto in Whitehall.

As well as exploring the opportunities new technologies present, CyberUK 24 will explore how technologies such as generative artificial intelligence and quantum computing can and will be harnessed by cyber adversaries.

Dowden concluded by saying that the cyber threat faced by the UK as a whole is very real, and insisted the government’s commitment to tackling the problem had never been stronger. He added that to be the best place in the world to do business, the country will also need to be the safest place in the world to do business.

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