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UK net 'more resilient' than other EU states

Lords encourage Europe to catch up

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The UK's internet infrastructure is better prepared to withstand attack or natural disasters than many European nations', a Lords committee has found.

The interconnections between national internet infrastructures however mean the UK could benefit from improvements overseas, the Lords EU Home Affairs sub-Committee found.

Their conclusions follow comments by the security minister Lord West last week, who at a Critical National Infrastructure conference said the UK government was ahead of EU nations in guarding against cyber attacks.

"We do not think the Government are being complacent," the Committee said today.

"Our witnesses generally thought the United Kingdom had sophisticated defences compared to most other states."

Advised by Cambridge University security expert Dr Richard Clayton, the Lords heard from international witnesses from organisations including Europol, JANET, the Cabinet Office and SOCA.

They considered a range of scenarios threatening to the internet, such as the type of deliberate DDOS attack that cause wide disruption in Estonia in 2007, and a theoretical failure of the Thames barrier, which could damage vital datacentres and peering points concentrated in London's Docklands.

The Committee concluded that although the internet is widely considered a matter of national security, and so principally a concern for national governments, the EU has a role to play in building resilience.

"All Member States have an interest in bringing the defences of the lowest up to those of the highest, and that this is a matter of legitimate concern to the EU as a whole," they said.

ENISA, the European Network and Information Security Agency, serves as the main EU forum for cooperation on internet resilience, but the Lords criticised its location, on Crete, as unhelpful.

Meanwhile, they said the European Commission's plans for an EU-wide cybersecurity exercise this year were "unrealistic" and "over-ambitious" given the state of preparedness in other nations.

"Instead, as a first step, they should encourage the majority of Member States to have carried out national resilience exercises by the end of the year," they said.

The UK ran a telecoms resilience exercise, code-named "White Noise", in November. The conclusions are yet to be published.

The Lords' full report is here. ®

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