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UK Commits £15m to Commonwealth Cyber-Initiative

The UK has agreed to spend up to £15m to boost cybersecurity in Commonwealth nations, as part of a wide-ranging inter-governmental commitment to fighting online threats.

The 53-state Commonwealth is seen by many as a throwback to the days of the British Empire, but nonetheless represents almost a third of the world’s population.

As such, the “Commonwealth Cyber Declaration” leaders were expected to sign at a Heads of Government meeting in London this week could be an important step in tackling global cybercrime.

According to Number 10, the declaration sets out a vision for a free and open internet and commits members to improving national cybersecurity and international co-operation against “those who seek to undermine our values, security, even the integrity of elections.”

As part of the funds set aside for this initiative, the UK is giving £5.5 million to “low and middle income” Commonwealth countries so they can carry out national cybersecurity capacity reviews before the next meeting in 2020.

Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau joined Theresa May on Wednesday for an intelligence partners meeting at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

In addition, digital secretary Matt Hancock and Singaporean foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) on cybersecurity capacity building. It will commit the countries to working together on emergency response, training and more to deliver a program over two years.

“I have called on Commonwealth leaders to take action and to work collectively to tackle this threat. Our package of funding will enable members to review their cybersecurity capability, and deliver the stability and resilience that we all need to stay safe online and grow our digital economies,” said May.

“The Commonwealth plays a pivotal role in shaping the future for many of its members. We have put security on the agenda for the first time so we can work together and build a safer future both for Britain, and for the 2.4 billion people around the world who live in the Commonwealth.”

Mark Weir, Cisco UK & Ireland director of cybersecurity, welcomed the extra funding as a vital next step in creating a “neighborhood cyber-watch.”

“To help reduce cyber-criminals' success rates and reduce the impact on businesses and countries, there has to be a greater willingness to share insight, learnings and knowledge,” he added. “These criminals are getting smarter by the day and growing in sophistication and power. We need to build a collective and collaborative community to ensure we don’t just keep up, but stay one step ahead.”

The news comes as some of the world’s biggest tech and cybersecurity firms came together this week to agree on a new commitment to improving co-operation on threats. The Cybersecurity Tech Accord includes Facebook, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, Trend Micro and many others as founding members.

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