British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent announcement of a £16.5bn increase to defence spending, brought with it an interesting caveat for the cyber security community.
A substantial amount of the investment will be placed in cyber security defences and offensive capabilities.
The UK has seen cyber, in particular, as one of the areas that need modernising and investment. Talking to BBC News, defence minister Ben Wallace, “Our adversaries are investing heavily and [they] are using the sub threshold to constantly attack us, and we need to make sure we defend against that”.
2020 has seen a significant rise in cyber-security attacks, as cyber criminals try and take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected businesses in many industries around the world. The investment in the country’s cyber-security will see £1.5bn of the budget going towards the creation of a National Cyber Force and bolster the UK’s ability to fight cyber criminals on a large scale.
But what does all this mean for businesses of all sizes across the country? Neuways’ Managing Director Martin Roberts, says it should lead to benefits, over time, for the entire country and how previous examples of cyber investment on this scale have changed the world before.
“There will absolutely be benefits for the whole country over time. Any large-scale research projects that can improve the country’s networks and protection will benefit and trickle down to us all in due course.
“Look at the Apollo space missions, and the value they brought to the world afterwards. The spend was more than justified through innovations like, vacuum-packed food, thermal blankets and smaller cameras, all of which derived from those missions and changed the world as we know it today.
“There’s always an unexpected trickle down, and a lot of it is symbiotic. There is a balance between private enterprise and government investing in research and creating innovations that impact all of our lives. The more spent, between government and private enterprise, the more significant the impact will go on to be for all of our cyber security.”
The creation of the long rumoured National Cyber Force, last mentioned in 2018 but recognised during the recent announcement, should lend itself to more benefits as cyber security plays a larger role in the government’s defence strategy. Martin sees it as the country being given the tools it needs to protect itself from global threats:
“My understanding is that we have to make sure we have a defensive and offensive capability to ultimately knock out surveillance systems, in the event of an escalating conflict.
“This could be described as a warm war, where you seek to gain advantage over your enemies through disrupting infrastructure. This could be by knocking out power sources or railways, for example, which would cause absolute chaos.
“It might seem strange for businesses to be appreciating this spend in this kind of context, but it will protect them in the event of a cyber war, which is almost inevitable at some point. Upon reflection any spend is good, because it will protect us from nefarious means and there are always learnings that come with spend of this size.”
All of this talk about hacking on a country-by-country scale, though, should not mean smaller businesses assume they are safe. No, as Martin says, there are more cyber criminals out there looking to disrupt businesses than ever before, and everyone should remain on high alert or they will be next – sometimes unintentionally!
“There are plenty of malicious actors out there. One-man bands, who are not associated with governments and they are the great threat to business. The majority of hackers are out to extract money, as well as a handful who do it for fun, just because they can.
“Unless a business was involved with national security, you would think they shouldn’t worry, but there can be unintended consequences. If a hacker is hacking one government on behalf of another government, there can be innocent bystanders, innocent businesses in this case, who are victims along the way.
“We have our own evidence of this. At Neuways, we have a software helpdesk product called Neuqs, which was once hit by a hacking attack originating in Iran! They obviously misunderstood the name of our product, which just goes to show you the trouble that mistakes can potentially cause.”
While, it is important nowadays, it was not always the case that businesses, and indeed governments, had to budget as much money for their cyber-security. Martin finds it a shame that there are so many who try to take advantage of cyber users:
“It is very sad that we have to put so much effort into ensuring our computing systems remain safe and our companies are secure.
“Over the past few decades, computing has moved from a novel, interesting subject area which allows us to do so much more from a productivity perspective to the present day where there is such a lot of overhead and consumption of money required just to keep things safe and operational.
“The reliance we all have on technology and cyber security shows us we would all be impacted a great deal if there was ever a problem!”
The UK government’s commitment to the country’s cyber-security defences, should be welcomed. As further research and investments are made, businesses at different levels will make use of the innovations that will no doubt come, as a result of such a large budgetary increase.
But whether it is now or in the future, Neuways would urge all businesses to continue to invest in their cyber security budgets – protection is so much cheaper and less damaging than cure.