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David Willetts: UK firms need to 'fess up to security boobs

Cloak-and-dagger approach leads to embarrassment later – minister

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UK Science and Universities Minister David Willetts told assembled IT bods in London that companies should 'fess up to their security boobs.

Speaking at the Info Sec conference this morning, Willetts, whose remit includes cyber security, urged companies to be very honest in reporting their cyber security problems and system breaches. He said:

I want large companies to be very frank about the problems they face and much more open about threats and cyber security attacks.

Willetts compared UK firms' current treatment of online security problems with the manner in which banks treated cases of fraud a decade ago, when a policy of secrecy turned out to be counterproductive.

He also made the point that the firms' reluctance to reveal breaches could later turn out to be embarrassing for them, noting that according to a report commissioned by the ministry into UK cyber security*, a majority of security breaches, particularly in large organisations, originated from insiders.

Willetts also warned firms about the dangers of intellectual property theft, which was highlighted as a growing risk in the new report. The minister said he had been "shocked by companies that don't properly protect their IP".

On a sunnier note, the minister added that the situation represented an opportunity for British companies in the security space and praised the range of strong and innovative companies that already exist, many of whom are showcasing themselves at the conference, which is currently underway at London's Earls Court. He stressed that "private partners" were vital to the government's cyber security policy.

He said:

We are different to the other EU countries in that we don't treat cyber security as a solely military issue.

Sadly there is no such thing as perfect security, but businesses need to know what information is the most valuable and at risk, and how to reduce that risk.

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*El Reg's analysis of the Price Waterhouse Coopers/Infosecurity Europe report released today can be found here

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