#CYBERUK21: We Have Reached a Moment of Reckoning in Cybersecurity, Says GCHQ Director

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We have reached “a moment of reckoning” in the cybersecurity and technology space, and urgent action is required to address the challenges being faced, according to the director of GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, during a keynote address at the CYBERUK 2021 online event.

Fleming began his talk by highlighting the greater role technology is playing in our lives as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While accelerated digitization has enabled society to continue functioning while maintaining social distancing restrictions, it has also provided more opportunities for malicious actors to launch cyber-attacks. “The result is that cybersecurity is even more relevant to our economy, society, and, increasingly, to our security,” noted Fleming.

It is also crucial to recognize that the tech environment is changing, with control shifting toward nations with fundamentally different values from those of the Western world. “We can see that key technology leadership is moving East, which is causing a conflict of interest, of values, where prosperity and security are at stake,” said Fleming, adding that “it follows that cybersecurity is an increasingly strategic issue.”

Greater collaboration is needed to tackle these issues, according to Fleming. This first must occur between nations. He outlined: “No one country can do this in isolation. Working with like-minded partners around the world is key—cyber is most definitely a team sport.”

As well as partnering between countries, there needs to be a much broader perspective brought in within societies to deal with the more sophisticated threat landscape, and to better understand how society interacts with technology. This requires a focus on diversifying the sector. Fleming commented: “The UK will only be able to thrive in the digital era if we’re able to draw people from all backgrounds to work together on these problems.”

Fleming emphasized that such an approach isn’t just morally right, but is also a strategic necessity in intelligence and cybersecurity. “I’ve seen first-hand how bringing together people who think differently helps us to be more innovative, spot better intelligence, and design better tech.”

Fleming concluded that the UK and its allies are at a critical juncture in the technology space, as the recovery from COVID-19 begins. “We know that tech, digital, and cyber are central to our future, and that means all of you, as critical members of the UK’s world-leading cyber team, have a fundamental role to play in unblocking the opportunities that lie ahead,” he stated.

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