Feeds

Top general warns of cyberspy menace to UK biz

Stealing secrets is costing Brits billions

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A senior general has said that cyberattacks represent the biggest threat to national security, warning that British firms routinely lose commercially sensitive information to overseas rivals as the result of hacking.

Major General Jonathan Shaw, head of the Ministry of Defence’s cybersecurity programme, claims that hacking cost the UK economy £27bn. An MoD spokesman helpfully explained that the figure comes from a report by Detica, commissioned by the Cabinet Office and published back in February.

This report guesstimated that businesses lost £21bn to hackers, while UK citizens were left £3.1bn out of pocket and the government lost £2.2bn. Around a third of the £21bn cost to business was due to industrial espionage, such as stealing designs or commercial secrets. Around £1bn was lost through theft of customer data. The hardest-hit sectors were pharmaceuticals, biotech, electronics, IT and chemicals.

Reliable figures on cybercrime are notoriously hard to come by, and what figures there are frequently get used by vendors to push security sales or to persuade politicians to invest more in cybersecurity. The government earmarked an extra £650m for improving cyberdefences. Maj Gen Shaw seems to be arguing not for more money but rather for a greater focus on credible threats rather than movie plot scenarios, such as hackers taking down power grids.

"The biggest threat to this country by cyber is not military, it is economic," said Maj Gen Shaw, a veteran of the Falklands War and Iraq, told The Daily Telegraph.

"The cyberthreat could affect anyone, and we all need to take measures to protect ourselves against the threat it poses."

An unnamed Warrington firm designed a "revolutionary blade for wind turbines [but] went bust after hackers stole the blueprint and produced a cheaper version", according to Maj Gen Shaw.

"If the moment you come up with a brilliant new idea, it gets nicked by the Chinese then you can end up with your company going bust," he said.

Maj Gen Shaw emphasised improving basic security defences at corporate level, such as improved password security and patching, in order to make life more difficult for foreign cyberspies. He avoided mentioning any offensive capability the UK might be developing.

Christophe Bianco, general manager, EMEA at Qualys, backed the general's call for improved "cyberhygiene".

"In the last 18 months, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of security breaches hitting companies, with many pointing fingers at competitors and foreign governments," Bianco said. "Many of these are being dubbed as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), implying that they are very technical, sophisticated threats for which organisations are unable to equip themselves against.

"In fact, a large percentage of these attacks could have been prevented by taking simple measures as part of a proactive security strategy, referred to in the industry as having 'good software hygiene' – which Maj Gen Jonathan Shaw refers to. It’s now imperative that a company, no matter its size, industry or location, put into place robust security measures to protect their expertise and data." ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.