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Cyber, security, defence rebranding policy unveiled

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Analysis Today the Conservative Party - the bookies' favourite to be the next government of old Blighty - sets out as much of its plans on national-security matters as it is willing to share before this year's election.

PM-in-waiting David Cameron, in a speech delivered today at Chatham House, promised "one of the most radical departures in security policy we’ve seen in decades" and assured the nation that "this isn’t some rebranding exercise, a nod towards new thinking, an attempt to paper over the cracks while time slips away".

Detail is provided in a paper (but not the sort you put over cracks), which can be found here. Curiously, the pic* chosen to head the Tory webpage shows two servicemen - presumably foreigners, as they aren't wearing British issue kit - staring moodily at some parked Canadian jets.

Here are a few highlights, touching on the issues which matter to Reg readers.

First up, the Tories make the now-obligatory nod to national cyber security, speaking of "the reliance of developed societies and economies on networks and computer systems for the effective functioning of all aspects of daily life". They say that "the threat of cyber attack is widely disregarded" and that "the West, which has become so dependent on technology, will also find that its current technological superiority will decline".

But the Tories will sort this out:

A Conservative government will set up a Cyber Threat and Assessment Centre (CTAC), by building on the existing Cyber Security Operations Centre to provide a common operating picture, threat assessment and situational awareness to users. It will act as the single reporting point for all cyber-related incidents. This will lay the foundation for the development of a National Operations Centre able to respond to cyber events.

The Conservatives also promise that everyone in law enforcement will become "cyber literate" under their rule, and further that "the gap in national digital forensics capability will be addressed".

There's some crowdpleasing stuff, though, for those who feel that the British security community is already a damn sight too keen on new surveillance and forensic technology and databases in which to keep the resulting files. Cameron and Co promise that they will:

...review relevant national databases and systems to develop a clear statement of purpose for each in line with the principles of proportionality and necessity, and to develop adequate governance regimes including strengthening and adequately resourcing the Information Commissioner’s Office.

There's a repeat of earlier pledges to scrap Labour's national ID card scheme and to shift the main police DNA database onto the same rules as in Scotland (signatures can only be held for those awaiting trial on prison-worthy offences, and retained only on conviction or for those charged with violent or sex crimes).

However, the Tories don't offer even a hint of a promise on existing plans by the spook community for mass trawling of almost all electronic communications, the so-called Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP). They merely say that the IMP will "be reviewed".

*Changed since we filed this story, funnily enough.

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