Experts Concerned Over New Digital Secretary's Lack of Cyber Knowledge

Privacy and security experts have signaled their concern over the appointment of Nadine Dorries to the post of digital and culture secretary.

This week, Boris Johnson announced the move as part of a major Cabinet reshuffle designed to stamp his authority on government and drive momentum into the next General Election campaign.

However, while most of the appointments were well received, question marks have been raised over Dorries’ tech credentials. As secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, she will be expected to master the detail of complex regulatory issues and sell Britain’s growing prowess in digital and cyber abroad.

However, in 2017 she invited widespread criticism from security experts after publicly admitting that her staff logged into her work computer using her credentials “every day.”

“Dorries spent much of her parliamentary career as a backbencher — and didn’t attend a single session when appointed to the Science and Technology Committee in 2010,” argued ProPrivacy digital privacy expert Hannah Hart.

“This is even more alarming when you weigh her seemingly lack of digital knowledge against the fact that the UK is facing an increasing amount of high-profile cybersecurity attacks. The education sector has faced a flurry of ransomware attacks, 2020 was a landmark year for hacking attempts, and the pandemic has seen opportunities for phishing scams soar as we do most of our banking and shopping online.”

Others raised concerns about the potential regulatory impact of the appointment.

“Given the government is currently pondering whether we should ‘relax’ data protection regulation and move away from the GDPR, it would be great to have the confidence that our parliamentarians had the technical and legal understanding of this complex issue,” Bournemouth University professor of IT ethics, Andy Phippen, told the newspaper.

 “Equally, observing the Online Safety Bill as it moves through parliament, one would hope those debating greater regulation of big tech understand both what technology is capable of in terms of content monitoring and filtering, and the implications of legislation on everyone’s online experiences. Sadly, with a few exceptions, I do not have that confidence.”

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