UK launches 'Fusion Cell' to head off cyber attacks

Public and private sector employees will come together to share information on cyber attacks directed at the UK from a new base in an undisclosed location.
Written by Sam Shead, Contributor

A new UK security centre is being set up to improve communication between businesses and government on cyber threats.

The initiative, known as the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP), was announced on Wednesday and will see experts from GCHQ, MI5, the police, businesses and security analysts work alongside each other improve their understanding of cyber threats facing the UK.

"We know that cyber attacks are happening on an industrial scale and businesses are by far the biggest victims of cybercrime in terms of industrial espionage and intellectual property theft with losses to the UK economy running into the billions of pounds annually," Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said in a statement on Wednesday.

A cyber attack monitoring operations room, known as a Fusion Cell, will operate from an undisclosed location and monitor live cyber attacks in real time.

The CISP will also include a secure web portal based on a social networking structure that enables members to choose who they want to share information with in real time. It will also comprise of programmes aimed at building cross-sector trust to underpin information sharing.

The initiative forms a core component of the National Cyber Security Strategy published in 2011 and expands on a pilot run in 2012, with representatives of the UK defence, telecoms, finance, pharmaceutical and energy sectors, including suppliers of critical national infrastructure.

The pilot, which was known as Project Auburn, included 160 firms and saw members share information on attack signatures and reconnaissance methods, in addition to any successful security mitigation strategies. It is hoped that additional firms will join the existing members.

Companies have previously been reluctant to share information about cyber attacks out of fear that it could damage their reputation and share price if investors realise they may have lost valuable intellectual property.

"Businesses' protests of nervousness of revealing publicly when they have been attacked due to the potential threat of revealing trade secrets and data confidentiality are quite unfounded," Wieland Alge, VP and General Manager EMEA, Barracuda Networks, said in a statement on Wednesday. "By focusing on their reputation and stock market value only, they forget that what’s at stake in an attack is their customers' data."

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