UK Set to Double Funding for Cybercrime Fight

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Chancellor George Osborne is set to announce an increase in funding to fight cybercrime following the terrorist attacks in Paris at the weekend.

The widely trailed announcement will be made at the headquarters of UK spy agency GCHQ today.

Osborne will double the sum currently allocated to fighting cyber attacks to £1.9 billion by 2020, with additional funding also being found for an extra 1,900 intelligence operatives at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, according to the BBC.

The chancellor is expected to claim that online resources are now a valid target for terrorists.

"If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost," he will apparently say.

"They do not yet have that capability. But we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it."

As announced previously, a National Cyber Centre will be created at GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham, tapping the IT talent at the spy agency and working with international partners to respond faster and more effectively to major online attacks.

There’ll also be a newly created Institute for Coding, more money for the National Cyber Crime Unit, and apprenticeships for cybersecurity specialists.

The terror attacks in Paris, in which over 120 were killed with scores of others left critically injured, could also sweep away opposition to the Investigatory Powers Bill currently going through parliament.

The controversial bill seeks to enshrine in law sweeping surveillance powers for the authorities and place new burdens on ISPs to keep customers' web browsing records, among other things.

It could also introduce a de facto ban on end-to-end encryption, which industry experts have widely criticized as unworkable and potentially catastrophic for UK businesses.

Kevin Bocek, vice president of security strategy at Venafi, welcomed the prospect of additional funding and argued that there is a “clear and present danger” terrorists could hijack or disrupt parts of the internet.

“A major part of the problem is that the fundamental way in which we trust the internet has not changed in over 20 years. Whether we are logging into email or an Airbus A380 running code, the way we trust we are connecting to someone, the way we trust apps, the way the world economy operates is based on the trust from digital certificates and cryptographic keys,” he added.

“They might be obscure to some, but are well known to the NSA, GCHQ, and an emerging set of cyber-adversaries from China to terrorists. Criminals and terrorists are now starting to use these keys and certificates against us.”

Nicole Eagen, CEO of UK cyber security success story Darktrace, said the news from Osborne is to be applauded.

“The government can lead and signal but it is British business that has to heed the message and act now,” she added in a statement. “The benefits of the digital world are central to modern business and cybersecurity is not an add-on but a core part of playing the game.”

Photo © Stephen Clarke

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