NCSC CEO: Vigilance and Coordinated Action Needed Against "Big Four" Nation State Threats

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Cyberspace is primarily a peaceful domain, a domain of operations “where we must have freedom of action, and the best capabilities and the best people to deploy them when we need them,” but it must not be militarized. 

Speaking this week at the Billington Cybersecurity event, National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) CEO Ciaran Martin said that the intention of keeping the internet peaceful is “a practical and tactical” point too as “we will always have more to gain by keeping the internet free and safe than our adversaries will.”

Focusing on what he called the “big four” main nation state threats, China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, Martin said that these “have been a constant over the past few years” but “we know more about them now than we did then and that helps us fight back.” He detailed the threats as:

  • Russia seeking traditional political advantage by new, high-tech means
  • China conducting cyber-attacks on commercial interests, which is being treated as business as usual
  • Intrusions from Iran, and attempts to steal money by North Korea. “Both of these nations are prepared to launch aggression digitally in a way they never would dare physically”

Martin argued that this is “the threat that we risk underestimating” as “their attacks amount to a direct and real challenge to having a thriving digital economy that commands public confidence.”

He said that there is a need for coordinated action with partners to manage this threat, and for constant vigilance to be maintained.

Martin also received the International Cyber Security Leadership Award, praising other recipients: Christopher Krebs, first director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Yigal Unna, director general of the Israel National Cyber Directorate.

Martin added: “Yigal and his National Cyber Directorate in Israel is, like the NCSC, a world leader in looking to make the internet automatically safer for citizens, and fusing the best of national security capabilities with technical know-how.

“I want to pay tribute to Chris’s leadership in establishing CISA, and in doing so, I want to welcome his emphasis on partnership with allies like us.”

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