Professor Keith Mayes from the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway joined a roundtable in Westminster on 25 February to address questions on UK cyber resilience.
Defending the cyber domain is one of the great security challenges of the 21st century. The rise of the networked world has brought benefits but also dangers. These range from minor irritations affecting personal computers to large-scale attacks on business and even geopolitical threats, with rogue actors targeting power grids, weapons systems and democratic elections.
Convened by the publishers, Prospect, the roundtable was attended by politicians, industry figures and defence chiefs including Admiral Alan West and Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones. In the chair was Prospect deputy editor Steve Bloomfield.
All attendees agreed on the seriousness of the problem. When critical national infrastructure is hacked there can be very real-world effects. The discussion ranged from how Cyberattacks now rank among the most pressing security threats we face, with risks to personal data, critical infrastructure and even democratic elections, to how to secure the perimeter and keep Britain safe.
For Professor Keith Mayes, the concern is where digital and traditional infrastructure meet:
“The big thing that worries me most is what we call the cyber-physical systems, the crossover between IT and operational technology. For example in a nuclear power station, we’ve got controllers, we’ve got sensors… and it used to be they were isolated from the internet. But for efficiency optimisation, it seems to be that we’re on this unstoppable train to connect everything together.”
Beyond the implementation of new protections, another important question discussed was how you inform the public about what is being done.
Looking ahead, there is an integrated defence and security review later this year, while The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) a part of GCHQ, will get a new chief executive. Keith Mayes concludes,
“The reality is everything can be successfully attacked. The question is, how much effort is required to do that, and how much protection have you put in place to stop it?”
Read the full report of the Prospect roundtable here
Professor Keith Mayes, is a professor of information security within the Information Security Group (ISG) at Royal Holloway University of London. He is an active researcher/author with 140+ publications. Keith joined the ISG in 2002, as the Founder Director of the ISG Smart Card Centre, following an industry career. He is active in the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Cyber Security, an Adjunct Professor at UMBC (USA), and a Governing Board Director for the International Cyber Security Centre of Excellence.