How prepared are you for a cyber attack? Experts warn Britain faces a heightened threat from hostile governments, terrorists and criminals.
Forget about missiles and fighter jets, the next wars will be fought online.
How prepared are you for a cyber attack?
Hi, I’m Leon Hawthorne. Governments around the world are beefing up their defences against the threat from cyber space.
The threat is the de-stablisation of the country, crippling networks that sustain public utilities and military facilities and stealing data from government, companies and individuals.
It comes from hostile powers, criminals and thrill-seekers. Different groups with different motivations.
Among the state actors around the world, North Korea, Iran, China and Russia lead the pack.
British intelligence says North Korea created the bug called WannaCry that left NHS officials in tears earlier this year, when it froze hospital computers, demanding a ransom payable in untraceable Bitcoin currency.
Iran is blamed for the attack on computers in the Palace of Westminster, hacking the email accounts of MPs and ministers.
Russia has launched cyber attacks on the military and economic infrastructure of its neighbours, Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia.
China is said to have a hacker army numbering 100,000 people. It’s renowned for cyber industrial espionage, stealing trade secrets from foreign rivals.
The west is no innocent bystander as whistleblower, Edward Snowden would attest.
But even Bill Gates’ Microsoft says the US National Security Agency created a bug, known as EternalBlue, which exploits a vulnerability in Windows software. EternalBlue has been used by other hackers, such as the attack on the NHS.
European Union leaders will soon proclaim cyber attacks as acts of war, to which the response could include conventional weapons.
But this is hyperbole. The thing about cyber warfare is it’s not clear who is attacking you. And hackers can purposely leave electronic fingerprints to frame other states.
Meanwhile, the National Cyber Security Centre has been established to coordinate the UK’s technical and strategic efforts.
It works closely with the National Crime Agency, Britain’s FBI, which leads the policing response.
Together they warn Britain faces a daily barrage of serious cyber assaults and it’s just a matter of time before we experience our first Category One attack, one that creates a national emergency with immediate danger to the population.
So what can we do about it?
It’s clear the criminal justice system is not the solution. Hackers are prosecuted under the Computer Misuse Act. But last year, there were just 60 prosecutions. Most got community orders and suspended sentences. Only four people went to prison.
The police only catch relatively low level, domestic offenders.
This is a technology problem for which the solutions lay in better technological resilliance.
But in the end, no system is perfect. Hackers will get through. So, government, companies and individuals need to plan for the worst and build in systems that mitigate the damage.
I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.