Lack of leadership on cyber, say MPs

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy warns that the government is not acting with the urgency and forcefulness that the current cyber threat requires.

Publishing it’s report on the growing and evolving threat to the UK’s critical national infrastructure, the committee says that the cyber threat to the UK’s critical national infrastructure is as ‘credible, potentially devastating and immediate’ as any other threat faced by the UK.

With the head of the National Cyber Security Centre stressing that a major cyber attack on the UK is a matter of ‘when, not if’, MPs claim that the government is not acting with the urgency and forcefulness that the situation demands, despite major cyber attacks being categorised as a top-tier threat to national security.

However, at a time when states such as Russia were expanding their capability to mount disruptive cyber attacks, the UK’s level of ministerial oversight has been labelled as ‘wholly inadequate’. The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy has urged the Prime Minister to appoint a cyber security minister in cabinet to take charge of the efforts to build national resilience, as well as urging the government to prioritise continued information-sharing and collaboration on cyber attacks with the EU during the Brexit talks.

Margaret Beckett, chair of the committee, said: “We are struck by the absence of political leadership at the centre of government in responding to this top-tier national security threat. It is a matter of real urgency that the government makes clear which Cabinet Minister has cross-government responsibility for driving and delivering improved cyber security, especially in relation to our critical national infrastructure.

“There are a whole host of areas where the government could be doing much more, especially in creating wider cultural change that emphasises the need for continual improvement to cyber resilience across CNI sectors. My committee recently reported on the importance of also building the cyber security skills base. Too often in our past the UK has been ill-prepared to deal with emerging risks. The government should be open about our vulnerability and rally support for measures which match the gravity of the threat to our critical national infrastructure.”

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