Big industry players have praised the latest cybersecurity strategy emitted by the British government, rubbing their hands with glee at its promises of lucrative public contracts for the rest of the 2020s.
The snappily titled Government Cyber Security Strategy, wheeled out yesterday, will set UK domestic cybersecurity strategy for the next eight years. It is a separate document from the National Cyber Strategy.
“The UK’s legitimacy and authority as a cyber power is however dependent upon its domestic cyber resilience, the cornerstone of which is government and the public sector organisations that deliver the functions and services which maintain and promote the UK’s economy and society,” said the strategy, authored by the Cabinet Office.
Its intent is to “significantly harden” public-sector security by 2025, with the whole of British state-owned IT infrastructure “being resilient to known vulnerabilities and attack methods” in eight years from now. Its authors accurately described this as “a bold and ambitious aim”, echoing Yes Minister‘s Sir Humphrey whenever he damned hapless MP Jim Hacker with faint praise by saying “that’s a very courageous decision, minister.”
Top billing in the strategy was the creation of a new Government Cyber Coordination Centre (GCCC). This “joint venture” plugs the National Cyber Security Centre into other infosec bodies within government: the Central Digital and Data Office and the Government Security Group, the idea being to harmonise security efforts so different parts of government don’t end up duplicating each other’s efforts. One of its purposes is sharing information about new vulnerabilities so “cross-government risks” can be “identified and managed.”
There’s also £37m being thrown at local councils to improve their security over the eight-year period, potentially a reference to the dastardly crooks who hacked Hackney Council in 2020.
Most of the strategy document says nothing new to infosec veterans, being concerned with risks, emerging threats, governance, the importance of data, detection and response, and so on; its intended audience seems to be mid-to-senior public-sector managers.
What’s really perked industry up, though, is the strategy’s section on “private sector and international partnerships,” which said: “Government will therefore continue to develop its partnerships with private sector organisations and academia to enhance its resilience across all aspects of security.” Lots of lucrative contracts seem likely in the near future.
Carla Baker, senior director of UK and Ireland government affairs for Palo Alto Networks, was first out of the commentary blocks to say the US-based company is “encouraged by these efforts,” adding: “To be truly effective the strategy should move beyond recommendations; there must be a firmer mandate for the strategy to take the widest and deepest root in Government.”
We’re sure there’s a tortured analogy extension lurking there about squirting the weedkiller of infosec on the Japanese knotweed of malware, safeguarding those growing roots of governmental IT.
F-Secure tactical defence unit manager Calvin Gan eagerly rode with the “bold and ambitious” part of the strategy, saying: “Perhaps a first is to relook at the entire estate of public sector systems and identify the current risks that are posed to them. Start identifying the technological debt that has been built up over the years and manage the risks associated with these debts.”
Lest this be thought a Sisyphean step too far, Gan reassured world+dog that “it is never too late” to start thinking about spending lots of money with a cybersecurity vendor.
Oz Alashe, CEO of CybSafe and chair of the government’s Cyber Resilience Expert Advisory Group, gushed that it was “very encouraging to see the government bring in leading figures from business and academia to help instigate a nationwide culture change in cyber security,” while Stuart McKenzie, Mandiant’s EMEA veep, called it a “solid first step,” saying: “Importantly, the approach also recognises that government partnerships with the private sector and international partners will play an important role in achieving the goal of cyber resilience.”
Meanwhile, an astute Jonathan Lee, Sophos’s director of UK public sector relations, observed: “This proposed approach will only succeed if there is investment in people to help underpin the strategy including buying in extra threat hunting and incident response management systems.”
Government is already planning to do that, albeit not in a way many smaller companies and sole traders might have hoped.
As far as industry’s concerned, it appears the new strategy is a massive win; its implicit promise is of lots of contracts, partnerships and cross-pollination between infosec companies and the public sector. Even as sales directors break out the bubbly and shareholders prepare for bigger dividends in years to come, it’s worth stating that signs of the British public sector taking infosec seriously, sustained over years, are welcome.
Certainly in the past, security has been treated as an unwelcome and costly afterthought. ®