UK examines its cyberdefences after US election hacking campaign

National Security Strategy committee calls for evidence on potential "exploitation of the cyber domain by other states".
Written by Danny Palmer, Senior Writer

Parliament is set to examine the UK's cybersecurity defences.

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A committee of MPs and peers is to investigate the UK's vulnerability to online attacks and hackers as part of a review of the nation's cybersecurity strategy.

The launch of the inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy comes days after US intelligence agencies issued a report into hacking and other cyberattacks during the 2016 presidential election campaign and pointed the finger squarely at Russia.

The National Security Strategy committee wants to determine what measures need to be taken to ensure that the country can protect itself from cyberattacks against government, businesses and critical national infrastructure, and "exploitation of the cyber domain by other states".

"The internet has changed our daily lives almost beyond recognition from the way we communicate, to the way we trade and the way government provides services to citizens," said the chair of the committee, Margaret Beckett.

"However, while the digital revolution has opened up a whole host of opportunities, it has also created new vulnerabilities. The national security implications of the leap to cyber are a matter of increasing concern," she added.

The inquiry notes how cybersecurity is only going to become more important "as more devices are connected to the internet and the Internet of Things becomes the norm".

2015's National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review previously identified cyber threats as one of four key security challenges facing the UK.

The government is keen to demonstrate its willingness to take a tough line on cybersecurity; Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned the UK will strike back at international hackers and cyberattackers who launch operations against the UK.

The National Health Service has also found itself in the firing line of cybercriminals. One recent incident saw a whole hospital group taken offline for days following a ransomware infection.

The inquiry is set to take evidence on a number of areas, including the types and sources of cyber threats faced by the UK; whether the UK has committed sufficient human, financial, and technical resources to address the scale of cybersecurity challenge; the development of offensive cyber capabilities; and the norms governing their use and more.

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy will be taking written evidence until 20 February 2017.

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