By Tom Espiner
29 November 2005
An MP has called for the creation of a cyber-security tsar and a
national agency to combat the growing threat of cyber crime.
Mark Pritchard, Conservative MP for The Wrekin, used an adjournment
debate last Wednesday to call for more action to address the impact
that cyber crime may have on the UK's critical national infrastructure
The agency should be a unified national cyber-security agency, which
would be a single point of cyber-security information, guidance and
advice for the nation," Pritchard argued.
Pritchard said: "The rise in aggressive viruses and cyber-security
threats is a clear and present danger to Britain's national security.
It is also a threat to Britain's economic well-being."
The MP also claimed that the UK's CNI was threatened by terrorist
He said: "It is interesting that the imprisoned al-Qaeda members have
admitted that their organisation has been attempting to - and no doubt
is still attempting to - develop cyber threats to strike western
However, some security experts - including Bruce Schneier - aren't
convinced that cyber terrorism is a serious threat. Speaking last
week, Schneier said: "I think that the terrorist threat is over-hyped,
and the criminal threat is under-hyped.
"I hear people talk about the risks to critical infrastructure [CNI]
from cyber terrorism but the risks come primarily from criminals. It's
just criminals at the moment aren't as 'sexy' as terrorists."
The CNI includes energy, transport, finance, telecoms and aviation,
which constantly rely on an exchange of information, according to
Pritchard, who suggested that the nuclear industry could be a target.
Pritchard said: "A penetration of any of those networks would be a
serious threat to national security, not least when it comes to the
potential to access Britain's 14 nuclear power stations."
He also claimed that cyber attacks had a detrimental effect on
consumer confidence. He quoted a figure of 200,000 cases of
internet-based identity fraud, at a cost to the UK economy of at least
=A316m. Online credit fraud has also increased by 29 per cent, he added.
In response, the government said Pritchard was making sensible
suggestions, and stressed the need for secure networks but said it had
no plans to regulate internet use.
Barry Gardiner, parliamentary under-secretary of State for Trade and
Industry, said: "It is not the government's role to manage the
internet, or regulate how business is conducted through it. There is a
role for government and business to work together in a non-regulatory
The government also pointed to its creation of the National
Infrastructure Security Coordination Centre and said it had recently
allocated =A330m to protect government information.
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