In a digital age, the rules that govern law enforcement must move with the times, says Simon Moores.
Michael Fabricant, the conservative member of parliament for Lichfield and shadow DTI spokesman, has started the new year with a series of parliamentary questions which are exploring the depth of the government’s grasp of the issues surrounding electronic crime and protection of the critical national infrastructure.
With Britain reportedly sliding down the list of international e-rankings and the government still looking for a successor to e-envoy Andrew Pinder, Fabricant asked minister for the cabinet office Douglas Alexander what the role of the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance (CSIA) will be when the e-envoy's responsibilities are re-assigned in accordance with the e-envoy 2003 report.
In a reply worthy of Yes Minister, Alexander said that “the re-organisation of the e-envoy under a new head of e-government will incorporate the continued role and responsibilities of the central sponsor”. No clues there then.
Reflecting concerns expressed in Computer Weekly last month, Fabricant went on the ask what steps the minister has taken to identify points of vulnerability and prevent damage to the critical information infrastructure for public sector networks.
Once again, the civil servants had been working on the perfect ministerial reply that the UK government has a continuous programme of work which identifies vulnerabilities and prevents damage to the critical national infrastructure, public sector networks and other interdependent information systems.
However, for security reasons, they said, it would not be appropriate to discuss specific vulnerabilities which have been identified, but added that the CSIA and its partners continue to work with owners of critical national infrastructure to reduce risks.
This roughly translates into “It’s a secret and we won’t tell you”, or “Don’t worry, the government has everything under control” or, potentially, in the wake of Blaster, Sobig and MyDoom, “We haven’t a clue, but we can’t tell you that”.
It’s encouraging that both opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, concerned by the huge cost of failed public sector IT projects are now taking the offensive, testing the government’s grasp of new technology and insisting on far greater accountability.
Liberal Democrat MP Richard Allan has now tabled several parliamentary questions on the cost savings made by departments since introducing their procurement and project management centres of excellence last year.
Those that have responded have said it is too early to measure out the savings, but I’m sure that he’ll keep pushing for a response.
Finally, with the e-crime congress taking place in London this month, Fabricant has asked the secretary of state for education and skills, whether the plans for a criminal justice skills council include computer forensic and security skills.
In a digital age, the rules that govern the provision of expert assistance to law enforcement are still governed by Victorian regulations.
IT has always been a poor relation in parliament.
These aren’t platforms upon which elections are won or lost but, at the very least, some of our parliamentarians are grasping that a strong digital economy isn’t simply a by-product of making knights of rich Americans.
What do you think?
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Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.
Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.
For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com