Attack Prevention: Better ‘Cyber Hygiene’

Monday, October 31, 2011 @ 05:10 PM gHale

Cyber attacks represent the biggest threat to British national security and UK companies are routinely having valuable commercial information stolen from them, said the country’s head of cyber security.

One company in Warrington, Cheshire, that designed a revolutionary blade for wind turbines went bust after hackers stole the blueprint and produced a cheaper version, said Maj Gen Jonathan Shaw, the head of the Ministry of Defense’s cyber security program.

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Shaw said Britain will lose its position as one of the world’s leading hi-tech manufacturers unless companies improve cyber security.

“The biggest threat to this country by cyber is not military, it is economic,” Shaw said. “The cyber threat could affect anyone, and we all need to take measures to protect ourselves against the threat it poses.

Last week officials determined a new version of the Stuxnet virus that crippled Iran’s nuclear program is targeting European firms that play a critical role in nuclear power and other critical industries.

The variant of the virus, Duqu, targets the software that controls power stations and other facilities.

The Chinese pose the biggest threat, Shaw said, and regularly target British companies and government institutions to acquire highly sensitive information.

To protect itself against future cyber attacks, Britain needs to have “an effective national response where everybody had to be involved,” he said.

Undertaking simple tasks, such as regularly changing passwords and making checks of computer software, could help to prevent attacks. “About 80 percent of our cyber problems are caused by what I call poor cyber hygiene,” Shaw said. “Many of them would go away if our cyber hygiene was better. We have embraced the opportunities provided by new technology, such as computers and mobile phones, without giving proper consideration to the downsides.”

He was speaking ahead of a conference on cyber security in London next month hosted by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, in an attempt to establish an international framework for policing the Internet.

The Government has invested an extra $1.05 billion (£650 million) into developing deterrents that can deal with hostile viruses.

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