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Home Secretary Outlines UK Government’s Plan to Tackle Growing Cyber-Threats

Cybersecurity has become a critical component of the UK’s homeland security mission, with more robust action from government required to deal with the dangers in this space. This was the message of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, speaking during the CYBERUK 2021 online event.

Patel noted that as home secretary, it is her duty to keep citizens safe while at the same time protecting economic prosperity, with “cybersecurity and resilience [becoming] increasingly important” aspects of this, particularly given the technology shift during the COVID-19 crisis.

She described the growing impact of cybercrime, declaring that “the scale of this type of criminality is truly shocking.” For example, Patel said that in the year ending September 2020, there were an estimated 1.7 million cyber-dependent crimes experienced by adults in England and Wales, and the overall cost of computer misuse incidents impacting individuals has been estimated to be over £1bn.

Additionally, recent incidents have emphasized the cyber-threat to nations’ critical national infrastructure. Patel noted the recent ransomware attack on the largest fuel pipeline in the US. She added that the SolarWinds attacks at the end of last year demonstrated that “cyber-operations are often highly sophisticated, and many are very likely to be state sponsored.”

Against this backdrop, Patel said that the UK government is continually working on boosting the nations’ cyber-defenses. “Just as our adversaries are continually developing their tactics, we are always seeking new ways to bolster our defenses,” she outlined. This includes the creation of the National Cyber Force late last year “to help transform the UK’s ability to counter and deter adversaries, further our interests, and promote our values.”

All of this feeds into the government’s ambition to “make the UK one of the safest places to be online.”

Despite the progress made, Patel emphasized that much more needs to be done, and said the government will be developing a comprehensive cyber-strategy to counter cyber-threats. As part of this, Patel noted that it is crucial that law enforcement bodies have the ability to catch and prosecute cyber-criminals, including those perpetrating online child sexual abuse and serious acts of fraud.

Therefore, to ensure these agencies are equipped with “the right tools and mechanisms to detect, disrupt, and deter our adversaries,” Patel said there will be a formal review of the Computer Misuse Act, and will be launching a call for information on the legislation this year.

Patel ended by stating: “These are complex challenges and difficult issues, so it’s vital we work together closely to confront them.” She added: “Ultimately, this is about keeping our citizens, businesses, and our national security safe.”

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