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News

MI5 Acknowledgement of Increased Cyber Threat

ESET : 27 June, 2012  (Technical Article)
ESET comments on a statement made by the head of the UK security service MI5 regarding the work the organisation is doing to combat astonishing levels on cyber-attacks in the country
MI5 Acknowledgement of Increased Cyber Threat
In light of the announcement from Jonathan Evans, head of MI5, saying that the group is working "to counter "astonishing" levels of cyber-attacks on UK industry" citing the Olympics as being an "attractive target", David Harley, senior research fellow at ESET made the following comments:

“MI5 is fairly typical of a security service in the Western World. It answers to the government, but doesn’t have the same view of the world (or of security) as the government. Make no mistake: the Security Services and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure was aware of and working against a wide variety of attacks long before cyber-terrorism and cyber-warfare became hot political issues, and long before UNIRAS/NISCC/CPNI became so publicly aligned with those elements of the private sector that are intermeshed with the public sector elements of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). Governments, on the other hand, are driven not only by the need to respond appropriately (whatever ‘appropriate’ means), but the need to reassure the electorate that they’re doing something, and most governments nowadays have acknowledged the need to maintain defences against cybercriminals and cyber-warriors of all flavours, as well as acknowledging more often that they are working proactively in cyber-espionage and cyber-sabotage, and all the other cyber-nuisances and cyber buzzwords. Also, there has been plenty of discussion about the precautions being taken to minimize the dangers posed by the Olympics.

“Even though Ross Anderson’s study was commissioned by the MoD, it seems fairly diffuse and largely focused on cybercrime. While in principle, I have to agree that it would be much more efficient if we could simply go after the gangs that have the most impact rather than spend money on purely technological solutions, that isn’t the world we live in. For one thing, while crime doesn’t recognise national boundaries, criminals are often well able to take advantage of such boundaries to evade the attentions of law enforcement. In fact, it’s a fallacy to assume that the security industry is purely focused on selling antivirus and firewalls. Much of our research activity is focused on forensic investigation in cooperation with law enforcement and other agencies, but that kind of criminal activity isn’t so easy to counter. Furthermore, it’s the sales of products and services that allow security companies to contribute their research expertise to anti-crime and anti-terrorist activities that often have no direct economic advantage to them. That may not be the best, most effective economic model for fighting cybercrime, but right now that’s what we’ve got. The per capita figures cited in the study don’t begin to reflect the real costs of fighting crime, any more than the £27bn figure cited in the Detica report does.”  
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