#InfosecurityEurope2022 Defense Looks to Bring Cyber Into the Mainstream

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Cybersecurity will continue to grow in importance for defense even if “cyber armageddon” has not yet happened, according to one of the UK’s senior military leaders.

The conflict in Ukraine has increased the risks of global cyber conflict, according to lieutenant general Tom Copinger-Symes, deputy commander, UK Strategic Command, during his opening keynote speech at Infosecurity Europe.

“That level of cyber Armageddon has not yet happened,” he told delegates. “We all expected a NotPetya-type attack to hit us. The message is, let’s not let down our guard. CFOs don’t care whether [an attack] is directed at you or spillover.”

Copinger-Symes pointed out that attacks, including ransomware, continue to threaten the UK, especially because of the war in Ukraine. “Ransomware is not going anywhere. Sanctions are biting hard, and that increases the attraction of ransomware,” he said.

The UK has made progress in improving its cyber defenses, especially for critical national infrastructure, but more needs to be done to secure supply chains, including in defense. “Supply chains are a great worry. Look at the complex systems we have in defense,” he said. Organizations rely on dozens of suppliers and ensuring they are all secure needs both resources and talent.

The defense will need to bolster its cooperation with industry and academia to recruit the expertise it needs. This, Lt Gen Copinger-Symes said, extends to both service and civilian defense personnel. The forces will need to “develop and retain” skills and talent. The military needs to look more widely for skilled people. “Digital talent and skills obey no socio-economic rules,” he said. “We need to get out to the nation and find that talent.”

This also means putting more emphasis on cyber skills across all of the defenses. “We need to make cyber a mainstream part of defense, not a niche,” he said. Cyber is a key strategic advantage.

However, the armed forces need specialists who are as comfortable with working in the electromagnetic spectrum, electronic warfare and signals intelligence as they are with data security. Ships, tanks and aircraft all “need to be able to maneuver freely and gain advantage” in the electromagnetic and cyber domain.

This is essential to defend the UK’s interests, not just in defense but in diplomatic, economic and soft power. The UK is on the threshold of becoming a great cyber power because it is a “great digital nation,” Copinger-Symes said.

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