More cooperation needed to prevent catastrophic cyber-attacks

15 October 2010

Labour life Peers, Lord Reid of Cardowan and Lord Browne of Ladyton made their maiden speeches in the House of Lords on 14 October in a debate on the Report of the European Union Committee on Protecting Europe against large-scale cyber-attacks

Lord Jopling, chair of the EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, introduced the debate.

Lord Reid of Cardowan

Lord Reid of Cardowan remembered an early encounter with a mobile phone. ‘It looked like a brick. It weighed the same as a brick and was just about as effective as a brick when it came to telecommunications,’ but was the beginning of a global revolution.

‘Globalisation’ is a continually used but rarely defined word that has two characteristics Lord Reid said: ‘It is a network world – its first characteristic is the interchange of finance, trade, goods, people and ideas, which have been enabled by digital communications. But it also has interdependence.’ He said we are interlinked to that network world: ‘If a financial crisis starts somewhere … Nowhere is that vulnerability from interdependence clearer than in network capabilities.’

The weapons that attack us do not have to be expensive military systems anymore, Lord Reid said. He spoke of the increase in malware attacks, up from 5,000 incidents a day last year to 80,000 this year against the clients of a security software provider, as many as 250,000 every hour against the US security system and the public sector. There is a vulnerability here that we must try to understand, he said. ‘It is to be expected in a House like this, for all our wisdom, that we might not be as au fait with technological advances as the younger generation. However, we ignore this at our peril.’

Lord Browne of Ladyton

Referring to the recent attack computer systems running the Iran’s nuclear programme and the warning from the director of GCHQ on the need to enhance the UK's offensive and defensive cyberwarfare capability, Lord Browne of Ladyton looked ahead to the Government's strategic defence and security review, due next week. The review needed to focus on more than conventional defence equipment, ‘the nature and character of weaponry, is changing.’ He spoke of the ‘comforting misapprehension’ that as members of NATO our adversaries will in future engage us in conflicts that play to our strengths, not in unconventional conflicts that play to theirs. This is dangerous thinking.’ The real test of the strategic defence and security review will be whether we have invested to meet the challenges of tomorrow rather than those of yesterday, he said.

Lord Browne said the role of domestic and international law also needs to be address. He called for the regular review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, drafted before the internet developed into what it is today, he said, to ensure that it keeps up with the rapid rate of change that we are witnessing. ‘In particular, we must find ways of making detection and prosecution easier. Internationally, in the absence of sufficient treaty law or UN statutes dealing explicitly with cyber actions, urgently we need to define the role that international law should play in covering either offensive or defensive cyber actions.’

Image: Parliamentary copyright

More news on: Crime, civil law, justice and rights, Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, Crime, Internet and cybercrime, European Union, House of Lords news, Lords news, Parliamentary business

Share this page