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Government publishes Cyber Security Strategy 2016

Published 17 May 2016

2016 sees the launch of the UK's second National Cyber Security Strategy.

The first was launched in 2011 as a result of the 2010 National Security Strategy, which identified cyber crime as one of the top threats to the UK. The programme aimed to build the UK's cyber security capabilities and make the UK more resilient to cyber crime and one of the safest places in the world to do business online. However, 5 years is a long time in the cyber world - in 2010 the Internet of Things barely existed; in 2016, over six billion connected devices are in use worldwide, set to rise to over 20 billion by 2020.

Last year's National Security Strategy confirmed cyber crime's place as a "tier 1" threat to the UK's economic and national security; the threats are ever changing and uncertain: a new strategy, and greater investment, is required to ensure the UK stays ahead of the game. In recognition that there is more work to do, the government has promised to increase investment in cyber security from £869 million to £1.9 billion over the next 5 years.

On 18 April 2016, the government published its final report on the 2011-16 cyber strategy, available here. The report summarises progress, reviews the impact of the programme and looks ahead to the 2016 strategy.

The report notes that businesses of all sizes and sectors are better protected now than they were in 2011. According to the 2014-15 Cyber Governance Health Check of FTSE 350 companies available here, 88% of companies now actively consider cyber security as a business risk and included it in their risk register, up 30% on the previous year. Awareness among small businesses remains patchy, but it is noted that over 2000 Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus certificates have been issued, and over 77,000 users have completed Cyber Essentials online training for small businesses.

It also reports that people are now being prosecuted for cyber crimes. However, given that the Office for National Statistics estimated that over 5 million instances of online fraud and 2.5 million cyber crimes took place last year, the figures are far from encouraging. The number of live cyber crime cases being prosecuted by the CPS Organised Crime Division rose from 13 in October 2011 to 50 in December 2015, and the number of finalised crime cases increased over the same period from 2 to 43 (not including cyber cases dealt with by other sections of the CPS.)

While such incidences of cyber crime could be a small-scale phishing attack on you or me, it could also extend to an attack on a national bank, with much greater consequences, as experienced by the Bangladesh National Bank in February resulting in access to the SWIFT banking system and an attempt to steal US$951m (of which US$81m is still unaccounted for).

To tackle such a range and extent of threats, it is clear that ongoing focus and investment is required, and the government's updated Cyber Security Strategy, and the investment that goes with it, is to be welcomed.

Submitted by Helen Nuttall, Solicitor

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