Norwich MP given cyber security role
06:30 24 September 2012
A Norwich MP and minister has been given responsibility for coordinating Britain’s efforts to defend itself from cyber attack.
The Eastern Daily Press has learnt that Norwich North MP Chloe Smith will take on the role as part of her new job at the Cabinet Office.
Cyber security refers to defending UK private and public sector organisations against electronic attacks launched via computer systems.
Threats include everything from small scale email scams to sophisticated large scale attacks launched for political, economic or criminal reasons.
Ms Smith, who was given her job as Cabinet Office minister in the recent reshuffle, said: “I’m responsible for acting in a coordinating role for cyber security. Of course all of government takes it very seriously, but the Cabinet Office performs a coordinating role in the middle.
“Cyber security means making Britain a safer place to do business, making sure that the government and individuals are safe from cyber threats. But it is also a great opportunity to help British businesses grow on a very interesting and fast moving sector.
“Threats can come from a number of sources; that can be acts from other states, but it can also be criminal activity against a business or individuals in terms of their personal details.”
Ms Smith’s role will see her coordinating the action of all government departments, but in particular of the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence.
Earlier this year the military admitted cyber criminals had managed to hack into some of the MoD’s top secret computer systems, that the number of cyber attacks on government computers was increasing and that the UK itself was involved in developing cyber weapons.
Perhaps the most famous cyber attack to date is the ‘Stuxnet’ strike which saw an implanted computer programme damage centrifuges used by the Iranian government to enrich uranium.
Ms Smith said: “It can also include ‘hacktivism’, and that means situations in which a group seeks to hack into systems belonging to a government, business or people for a particular purpose, for example to carry out some sort of political campaign.
“People will be aware of some of instances where some firm’s website has been brought down by that kind of activity.”
The hacking group called ‘Anonymous’ came to prominence when it launched online attacks in support of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in December 2010, after his website published secret US government diplomatic cables.
The hacking collective targeted global finance websites Visa and PayPal after those companies severed links with Wikileaks.
Meanwhile this year the group claimed to have brought down the websites of Downing Street and the Home Office in protest at the handling of Assange’s bid to avoid extradition to Sweden.
Ms Smith’s first task will be to look at the country’s Cyber Security Strategy this November and see if it is up to date.
Her job in the Cabinet Office also sees her take on responsibility for constitutional reform, including looking at issues like the recall of MPs. Meanwhile she will oversee the government’s drive for efficiency and reform in the civil service.