William Hague warns of the growing threat of global cybercrime and the potential threat on the UK’s critical national infrastructure

It has never been easier to become a cybercriminal. That is the stark warning that Foreign Secretary, William Hague, will issue when he addresses the Budapest Cyberspace Conference today. He will tell international delegates that cybercrime is “one of the greatest global and strategic challenges of our time”, and has the potential to have devastating consequences not just on the UK’s critical national infrastructure but on the CNI of every country.

Mr Hague who is attending the conference with Cabinet Secretary, Francis Maude, is also to highlight the UK’s determination to be seen as a world leader in the fight against cyber security threats, by announcing that the government intends to spend £2 million setting up a dedicated cybercrime centre which will help to spearhead the fight against cyber threat, and offer assistance to other countries in dealing with the problem.

The Foreign Secretary is calling for international collaboration and co-operation in the fight against cyber threat and wants to establish an international hotline to help to tackle emergencies. He will also reveal he wants action taken against cyber criminals who are now selling off-the-shelf malicious software packages that can target people’s bank accounts, for as little as £3,000, inclusive of 24-hour access to a technical support hotline. Mr Hague’s leaked speech will say:

“It has never been easier to become a cyber-criminal. Today, such attacks are criss-crossing the globe from north to south and east to west – in all directions, recognising no borders, with all countries in the firing line.”

The government hopes the announcement of the new dedicated cybercrime centre will help to assuage some of the disquiet that has surrounded its policy vis-à-vis the protection of the UK’s critical national infrastructure. Although the government’s ‘Strategic Defence and Security Review’ outlined its priorities in responding to threats against our national security and the increasing threats to our CNI, and set out the 15 priority risk types that the government had identified, including four critical areas which were identified as the most important threats to national security over the next five years, critics have remained unimpressed with the action that appears to have been taken so far. These critics are particularly concerned with the apparent inaction with regard to the so-called Tier One risks of international terrorism, attacks on UK cyberspace, national military crises and a major accidents or natural hazards, like pandemics.

The government, to its credit, did subsequently set up the Office of Cyber Security & Information Assurance (OCSIA), which over the course of the last few months has been looking at new ways to fight these particular global threats and protect the UK’s critical national infrastructure. However industry experts remained concerned about the effectiveness of the overall strategy and had called for a more robust, home-based agency to protect the UK from the ongoing threat of cyber-attack. It remains to be seen whether the new dedicated Cybercrime Centre will answer their concerns.