Confidence in the internet is wobbling: Here's how to fix it, says cyber chief

Tech industry has a responsibility to fix security for the next generation, says NCSC head.
Written by Danny Palmer, Senior Writer

There's been a dip in confidence around how the internet works and it's up to the cybersecurity industry and others to help fix problems and ensure that we don't make the same mistakes that were being made when online connectivity was a new phenomenon as fresh internet-connected technologies emerge.

"These new generations of technologies still offer unparalleled opportunities to make all our lives so much better – our healthcare, our economy, our societies, but we have to think about managing the risks and the harm," said Ciaran Martin, CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the cybersecurity arm of the UK's GCHQ intelligence agency.

Speaking at the NCSC's CYBERUK 19 conference in Glasgow, Martin warned that we're at a critical point with the internet, with trust in it starting to decline.

"At a time when I don't think confidence in the way the Western internet works isn't collapsing – but in some areas it's wobbling – let's get that confidence back. Let's do these fixes, let's get after these problems," he said.

SEE: 10 tips for new cybersecurity pros (free PDF)

The NCSC chief didn't reference anything specific as the cause of declining trust in the internet, but a number of vast data breaches, global cyberattacks like WannaCry and NotPetya, and concerns around how social media can be manipulated for malicious ends, are just some of the areas the security industry is thinking about right now.

Martin's argument wasn't that all new technology is scary and disruptive: he pointed to all the benefits it could potentially bring, but emphasised that there are issues which need to be fixed in order to ensure users can get the most out of the internet while still remaining safe.

"We can fix these problems, we can get ahead of the problem – and by looking at the way technology is evolving, we can avoid the mistakes of 20 years ago when we allowed new technologies to develop in a way that didn't always incentivise security and we can make it safer, so we can all enjoy it and use it safely," he said.

By doing that, Martin argued, the current generation of security professionals, policy makers and others, can ensure that trust in the internet is restored for future generations.

"Everyone in this room has his or her part to play in making sure that when we vacate this stage and give away to the next generation, that we're handing over to them a technological economy and society with confidence," he said.

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