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Basic security housekeeping vital, says GCHQ boss

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GCHQ's director has said that 80 per cent of the government's cyber security vulnerabilities can be solved through good information assurance.

Iain Lobban, the director of the signals intelligence and information security organisation, said if government departments observed basic network security disciplines, such as "keeping patches up to date", combined with the necessary attention to personnel security, their online networks would be much safer.

"But the scale of the challenge is changing, and the remaining 20 per cent of the threat is complex and not easily addressed by just building the security walls higher and higher," he told an audience at the International Institute for Strategic Studies on 12 October 2010. "As Bill Lynn, the US Deputy Secretary of Defense has said, a 'Maginot line' approach to defence will not be sufficient of itself."

"The 20 per cent which is made up of that complex threat needs to be defended against in cyberspace itself."

The GCHQ boss also warned that as the government puts more of its services online, the public increasingly expects services to be completely secure.

Lobban urged the government to deepen its dialogue and partnership with the companies which deliver the systems and services that need securing.

"In many cases they have an equal or greater stake in ensuring proper protection and realising efficiencies," he said. "There is a strong foundation on which to build in the structures that have been created under the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and a number of Whitehall/industry bodies."

Lobban also hopes that government organisations will respond more swiftly to "match the speed at which cyber events happen". This can be achieved through ensuring there is a direct feed of information from operators, he explained.

"But such feeds could give us the opportunity to respond, if necessary, with some active defensive techniques, as well as to spread knowledge of the threat quickly to others who may be vulnerable," he added.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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