UK to spend £2m a year on shoring up cybersecurity worldwide

A UK-based cybersecurity 'centre of excellence' will help other countries defend themselves against cyber-attacks, according to foreign secretary William Hague, who also hinted at the establishment of 'hotlines' between rival countries to stop potential cyber-war situation getting out of hand.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The UK is to set up a cybersecurity 'centre of excellence' in order to advise other countries on how to defend themselves in cyberspace.

The Centre for Global Cyber-Security Capacity Building will receive £2m a year in government funding, and will work out of an established academic network in the UK. Foreign secretary William Hague announced the move on Thursday at an international conference on cyberspace in Budapest.

"Some countries lack the infrastructure and expertise to police their cyberspace and we have been too slow to share best practice and build their capacity," Hague said. "Cybercriminals and terrorists should have no refuge online, just as they should have no sanctuary off-line."

Hague, who claimed it had "never been easier to become a cybercriminal than it is today", said the centre will "offer countries independent and bespoke advice on how to address this challenge".

He added that the UK could secure its own networks better if it helped others secure theirs.

The foreign secretary also noted that countries — and not just allies — "will all need cyber-hotlines to each other" to avoid potential cyber-war situations spinning out of control.

He gave no detailed information on this, but reports suggest the UK is in talks with Russia and China over the establishment of such hotlines, and that the US has also been talking to China.

International efforts

Many of the UK's cybersecurity efforts involve cross-border cooperation, particularly within the European context.

400 cybersecurity experts from across the EU are taking part in a so-called tabletop exercise on Thursday, simulating a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against public websites and financial institutions.

The simulation is being carried out under the guidance of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), and is supposed to test the responses of banks, ISPs, local and national governments. The drill replicates the effects of 1,200 separate 'incidents' within a self-contained system.

Similar moves

Apart from its focus on advising other countries, the new centre appears to have some cross-over with other recently-announced initiatives, particularly the Research Institute in the Science of Cyber Security that went live at the start of this month.

The research institute, which is intended to shore up the UK's defences, also has the backing of the government, as well as the UK's intelligence services. It also ties in closely with some of the country's top universities.

Meanwhile, as Hague reiterated in his speech on Thursday, the government and GCHQ have been liaising with Britain's largest businesses since last month, advising them about the latest threats and passing on security advice.

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