Just days after vowing to outlaw encrypted communication if he is re-elected, David Cameron had a quick stopover in the US last night to talk about a huge threat to governments and individuals alike – Cyber terrorism. During the trip, he inked what several places are calling a “pioneering deal” in combating online related terrorism.
So called “cyber-agents” in the US and UK are to join forces to protect the most important areas of infrastructure in both countries. These are targets that would be the most devastating if attacks managed to take them down. This team will focus on protecting the country’s biggest banks, transport systems and energy supplies from attacks. Due to be announced today, the press release may speak more about swaying public opinion than giving facts about the intended workings of the new friendship.
Using words such as “boosting the two nations economic growth” both Cameron and Obama are bound to be on the charm offensive. It is hard to see where and how this would aid recovery, however this comes the day before GCHQ will be releasing information and guidance to British businesses on the dangers they face from online organisations – Reports claim that 80% of UK based companies have suffered some kind of hacking, and that this activity is costing upwards of £1.5m to the economy. Getting voters on board may also benefit large business and reduce expenditure.
Cyber War Games
There will also be a series of joint “war games” to simulate the activity and protection should attacks take place around the City of London’s infrastructure. This will bring on board some large financial organisations in order to test defences – which may or may not already be in place to combat large scale organised attacks. The results of these tests are bound to be labelled top secret and only left to benefit the most privileged. The question also must be asked if GCHQ or the NSA found a back door, would it be plugged?
After these operations against banks and financial institutions they will move onto test the defences of critical infrastructure like transport systems, power and water facilities. It would be presumed that similar activities will take place in the US at a later date, unless such “war games” have already taken place behind closed doors.
“Just as we have worked with our closest ally, the US, to protect our people and our countries from traditional threats, so we must work together to defend ourselves from new threats like cyber attacks.” – David Cameron
Details are sketchy on just how this new “cyber cell” will be any different than current programmes designed to defend against attacks on each side of the Atlantic. Joint operations and information sharing between GCHQ and NSA agents have been commonplace over a number of years – at least according to documents leaked from Edward Snowden. However it will be the first time the UK has established physical cyber terrorism operations outside of the UK.
We have to take all of the information with at least a pinch of salt, if not a handful. At the moment David Cameron is gearing up for a long stretch of campaigning for re-election. Who wouldn’t cash in on recent cyber-attacks like the Sony escapade and project the image of protecting the citizens from attacks? Coming days after the social media accounts of US military command were ‘hacked’ it would do no harm for Obama to appear to be squashing other attempts to damage the US. Jumping on the bandwagon that is firmly rolling since The Interview was released despite alleged attempts form North Korea to stop the movie.
David Cameron is believed to be on an Internet security roll at the moment, and is preparing to urge US based companies with a large presence in the UK to do more and take stronger action against terrorists communicating via social media. He’s looking squarely in the direction of Facebook, Google and Twitter to help aid and budget the movement against cyber warfare. Although after attacking encrypted communications channels such as Facebook’s Whatsapp, it remains to be seen if they will be on side with him. Let’s wait for the next round of political misinformation and campaign strategy and see how far he pushes it.