Cyber exploitation due to Digital skills shortage in the UK

Politicians have argued this week that the nation could be exposed to serious ramifications from attacks unless something is done to address the state of the cyber security measures operated by government agencies, according to BBC News.

Representatives of the Commons Public Accounts Committee argued that the way countermeasures are created and controlled at the moment suffers from a lack of cohesion, with too many different organisations taking responsibility for different aspects and strategies. Furthermore, the MPs on the committee claimed that a digital skills deficit was putting the UK at a disadvantage, hobbling the evolution and future development of its cyber defences.

There is little doubt about the severity of the threats that face the country in the digital realm. And the government responded to the committee’s claims by stating that it has made significant progress to tackle the present problems in this area.

The fact that other countries are beginning not only to develop tools of cyber warfare, but actually deploy them proactively against specific targets, is no secret either. Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said in a speech last week that Russia in particular was in the process of running an ongoing series of assaults intended to cause disruption for Western powers.

This is not just an issue which is focused solely on attacking the infrastructures which support the modern IT systems that are essential to modern life around the world, although the rise of DDoS incidents has been a concern in many quarters. It is also about the use of digital platforms to disseminate propaganda, as with the rise of ‘fake news’ in recent months, which many see as an attempt to both destabilise specific nations and to exploit vulnerabilities in the fabric of wider organisations such as NATO.

The committee further criticised the government’s handling of small scale data breaches, arguing that there was not enough onus on the Cabinet Office and others to take responsibility for addressing threats and dealing with the fallout of successful attacks.

Committee chair, Meg Hillier, said that it was hard to express confidence in the current systems, especially as there was a clear lack of skilled personnel available to fill key roles. She also said that the way in which breaches were reported was inconsistent across the different government organisations operating in the capital, meaning that some departments are doing a better job than others of managing and responding to threats.

In a statement, the Cabinet Office said that the steps taken so far had been recognised as forward-thinking by both security professionals and other countries around the world. It pointed to the £1.9 billion which was being spent to bolster the UK’s cyber defences and also ensure that the right skills were being dispensed.

The recently opened National Cyber Security Centre is seen as being the latest bastion for providing protection against various threats, providing the ability to respond in real time to attacks and help other organisations across many industries achieve similar improvements.

Some experts spoke out in support of the government’s cyber security initiatives, arguing that it was making headway and passing a number of milestones, thanks to its strategy of ongoing investment. It was also argued that human error was still the biggest problem facing the government and businesses; one which is unlikely to be overcome in the short term.

Data loss which occurs when a device is left unattended and goes missing or is stolen can be both embarrassing and costly, yet still occurs regularly, in spite of the long list of previous incidents involving the same circumstances.