U.K. government debuts new cybersecurity office and operation center

The British government, in a move paralleling the Obama administration’s recent commitment to cybersecurity, said Thursday it is establishing a new Office of Cyber Security (OCS), as part of a broader strategy dedicated to protecting Britain's information technology infrastructure.

The objective of the OCS is to “provide strategic leadership for and coherence across Government,” in responding to cyber-related matters across the United Kingdom, according to information released by the British government’s Cabinet Office.

In addition, the government is also establishing a multiagency Cyber Security Operations Centre that will provide the coordinated protection of the U.K.’s critical IT systems.

The operation center is a cross-government effort to bring together a variety of related functions, including monitoring the health of cyberspace, coordinating incident response, assessing attacks against U.K. networks and users; and advising business and the public about cybersecurity risks.

The announcement followed the release of newly-revised national security strategy that provides a framework for dealing with a range of cybersecurity issues.

Among other priorities, the strategy calls for:

  • Developing a cyber industrial strategy, with opportunities for high-tech businesses in the U.K.
  • A cybersecurity skills strategy to plug skills gaps in government and industry.
  • Making critical systems in the public and private sectors more resilient.
  • Providing better advice to business and citizens about the nature of the risks and the protection they should take.
  • Working with other countries to develop international law in this area.
  • Tackling the use of cyberspace by criminals and terrorists in line with the Association of Chief Police Officers’ forthcoming strategy for law enforcement on cyber crime.
  • Establishing a new ethics advisory group to make sure government activity on cybersecurity is consistent with personal freedoms to use cyberspace.
  • Stepping up emergency exercise planning for attacks and analyzing cyber-related threats in the Cyber Security Operations Centre.

According to government officials, the Office of Cyber Security would pull together people from the Ministry of Defense, the intelligence services, and the law enforcement agencies. In addition, it was expected that OCS would also have a role in coordinating offensive capabilities, including in extreme cases, having the ability to mount a cyberattack in response to intrusions into the U.K.'s own systems.

The U.K. cyber initiative is similar, in many regards, to the one announced by President Barack Obama, following the release of his 60-day cyber policy review, on May 29.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in releasing details of the strategy Thursday, said: “Just as in the 19th century we had to secure the seas for our national safety and prosperity, and in the 20th century we had to secure the air, in the 21st century we also have to secure our position in cyberspace in order to give people and businesses the confidence they need to operate safely there.” 

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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