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Cabinet Cyber Programme director: IT security "should drive economic growth”

Neil Kenward, the deputy director of the Cabinet Office Cyber Programme, told the London Cyber Security Summit 2013 that he wants cyber security to be "a driver of economic growth."

"Cyber security is about activating every value," he said today. "It doesn't mean locking down every open part of the Internet."

"There's huge opportunity here," he added, "but also huge risk."

Cyber was recently categorised by the recent National Security Strategy as one of four tier one, or top, national security threats, even putting the threat of cybercrime ahead of nuclear war in our assessment of risk.

"We all know that cyber-crime and terrorism cost this country billions of pounds a year," Kenward told delegates. He said that in order to battle the growing menace, the UK needs greater resilience to threats, and greater education about what steps can be taken to defend ourselves.

"The keyword is partnership," Kenward said, as he urged the British government to form alliances with business, academia and international partners in the fight against cybercrime.

"Cyberspace has no borders. Most threats come from outside the UK, so we have to work with international partners to help make us safe."

However, the most important step is education and the enactment of common-sense security protocols, according to Kenward.

"Some of the simplest elements of cyber security can be enacted by individuals, by businesses. Keeping your antivirus up to date. Using strong passwords. The government can make these steps easier by providing guidance."

Overall, Kenward said, a safe environment online will mean greater confidence in the Internet as a place to do business.

"We want cyber security to be a commercial advantage in the UK - as a creator of business and an engine of growth," he said.

He referenced the raising of £860 million by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, to fund a national cyber security programme as evidence that efforts are underway to strengthen the country's capabilities.

The investment is "a sign of continued commitment in a very tight fiscal environment," he told the conference. "It may sound like a lot, but there is an awful lot to do."

Kenward argued that the government had already improved its situational awareness, and strengthened law enforcement capability.

"We've also increased business awareness - something many people were concerned about in the past."

"For the most essential national infrastructure, we have the CISP cyber information sharing partnership," Kenward said, a programme that ensures that "information can be shared in a secure environment."

However, he made no mention of the problems that even some close to the programme perceive to be "crippling" the nascent scheme.

The government is also addressing the growing skills gap in IT security by developing "cyber career pathways," helping "people already working in the IT industry to make the move into cyber security," Kenward said.

The cyber director also announced a major public awareness campaign to begin in the New Year, although he gave no details as to what the campaign would constitute. TV ads? Scary posters? Men with megaphones? Kenward wasn't saying.

"Individuals need to be aware of the risks," he said. "The key is not to scare people. It's about encouraging people to get online and feel confident."

He also hinted at plans in the works to improve ID assurance, using third-party identity confirmation to reduce the scope for fraud and attack, which he called "fantastically clever." However, he refused to give any further details on the scheme, which is apparently still in the works.

The one-day Cyber Security Summit 2013 was held in London, and addressed a wide range of issues including the latest in data protection policy, the economic prospects for establishing the UK as a cyber-security hub, and the growing threat of state sponsored hacking.

Andrew Miller MP chaired the conference, and warned delegates, "your privacy is more valuable than you realise."

Image: Flickr (Syniq)