Defence and Cyber-Security - Defence Committee Contents

7 Conclusion

Within the complex landscape of cyber-security threats and responses, it is imperative that each agency, department and Minister knows what it is that they are responsible for, either uniquely or in partnership with others. This role must be articulated clearly and understood fully in government at large. The amorphous, boundary-less nature of cyberspace, and the specific skills and capabilities needed to operate within it, mean that responsibilities which apply in the physical sphere cannot simply be read across to the analogous activity in the cyber sphere.

We welcome the Government's commitment to foster a vibrant and innovative cyber-security sector in the UK including a distinct role for the MoD to deliver military capabilities both to confront high-end threats and to provide potential offensive capability. However, we are concerned that in the long term, under unforeseen circumstances, such a narrow role might prove untenable. Our national understanding of 'defence' has widened to encompass a range of security threats not traditionally within the purview of the Armed Forces, and the same may be true of the cyber domain. For this reason, we consider that the Government as a whole needs to base decisions about responsibilities on a clear and conscious rationale, and be prepared to re-examine those decisions as events warrant. We recommend that the MoD and the National Security Council keep under review the delineation of the military role in national cyber-security, not with a view to expanding that role unnecessarily, but to ensure that threats are dealt with in the most appropriate and effective manner, and that the MoD can focus its resources accordingly.

The cyber threat is, like some other emerging threats, one which has the capacity to evolve with almost unimaginable speed and with serious consequences for the nation's security. The Government needs to put in place - as it has not yet done - mechanisms, people, education, skills, thinking and policies which take into account both the opportunities and the vulnerabilities which cyber presents. It is time the Government approached this subject with vigour.

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Prepared 9 January 2013