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Who do you think you are kidding mister computer hacker?

4 December 2012

The Big Society struggles on, making its mark yesterday in the unexpected realm of cyber security. In a written ministerial statement on the nation’s efforts to tackle cyber crime, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude announced plans to get the public involved in tackling (online) crime:

‘We are constantly examining new ways to harness and attract the talents of the cyber security specialists that are needed for critical areas of work. To this end, the MOD is taking forward the development of a ‘Cyber Reserve’, allowing the Services to draw on the wider talent and skills of the nation in the cyber field. The exact composition is currently in development and a detailed announcement will follow in 2013.’

The scheme — which appears to have little composition or structure at present — has already been branded by the Telegraph as a ‘digital Dad’s Army’. In theory, utilising the ‘wider talent and skills of the nation’ is exactly what the Big Society is about; bringing in private sector skills and individuals taking on greater responsibility. But much like the wider concept, there are some gaping holes around how this digital army would work. Would these reservists receive a special text message when a cyber attack is underway? Or is it a pre-emptive force? And when the ruthless coding machines have dashed to their nearest WiFi hotspot, what exactly would they do? What would the vetting process be for suitable hackers?

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There is a need for constant vigilance on this front, as some some of the figures in Maude’s statement suggest. £82 billion a year comes from internet-related business in the UK and 93 percent of large firms reported suffering a cyber attack last year. According to Maude, these breaches can cost businesses £15,000 to £250,000 depending on the size of the firm.

While GCHQ is beavering away to maintain national cyber defences, the private sector are already developing their own methods to protect their property in a battlefield that mutates every few days. But whether the twenty-first century Dad’s Army is a success depends on to what extent Maude fleshes out the scheme in 2013. Otherwise, it may just turn into another Big Society flop.

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Show comments
  • Olaf

    Work for GCHQ it’ll be jolly interesting and you’ll get paid about £30k.

    Work for Google it’ll be jolly interesting and you’ll get paid about £120k; also you can move to the US so the government doesn’t nick 60% of it.

    Where do you think the talent will go?

  • TomTom

    Francis Maude is a real dodo – they could use him at mme Tussauds without any wax. He has no idea of how many mavericks he would need. Does he really think the military have people versed in Black Hat operations – he has no idea. Can we have a new Satire Series – Francis Maude Finds Reality Check

  • Stiffit

    More hysteria. Most IT security consists of a postit on the front door saying that the key is under the mat.

    The Register reports on research into the 25 most popular passwords:

    “The roundup, produced by password app biz SplashData, put “123456” in the number two slot for 2012; the same sequence was used by 37 per cent of all user accounts at the Anonymous-hacked Greek finance ministry.”

    Do you suppose it’s any different in the UK?

    • Cogito Ergosum

      There are many comments on the Register under that article. Many people use junk passwords for junk websites. Ask what are the passwords people use for bank accounts and the answer will be different.

  • In2minds

    “While GCHQ is beavering away to maintain national cyber defences, the
    private sector are already developing their own methods to protect
    their property” –

    What a contrast to the typical celeb and professional person who cannot be
    bothered to protect their own mobile phone!

    • Cogito Ergosum

      I am not convinced it was all the fault of the celebs. There are engineering access codes which are not supposed to be known by Joe Public or the private investigators.

      I am suspicious about why this has not been widely discussed.

  • CmdKeen

    What a load of ill informed tosh. Cyber Reserves have been mooted for well over a year, and planning is ongoing within the forces.

    As for the “Dad’s Army” – hyperbole aside – the Telegraph have a dislike for the reserves but this does take the biscuit. Go and find someone in the RNR, RMR, TA or RAuxAF and tell them they can’t possibly have a security clearance, and are nothing more than a Dad’s Army character. Even better if they’re one of the many who have been wounded in service to this country.

    Oh and perhaps have a Google about the Army’s existing reservist IT operations like LIAG(V) or LICSG(V). Maybe also look into the existence of Full Time Reserve Service – to IT professionals used to working contracts it would provide a way to get them onboard for a year or two at a time.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    If I were a hacker with evil intent, I’d sign up for this as soon as I could. Then I’d be an insider with evil intent, a far more dangerous proposition.

    • Archimedes

      So I assume you could just work for GCHQ instead, if this didn’t come in? No doubt, they have no security clearing process at all…

      • Rhoda Klapp

        I was positively vetted once. Well, i filled in a form and heard nothing, so I think I was. They couldn’t see inside my brain though. I believe most cyber crime is done by insiders, people with a good work history and no record who have seen an opportunity. That’s all. Now, if this initiative is actually to proceed by recruiting selected people or keeping them on after they leave the service, that makes perfect sense, but does not justify the post or what is suggested in it.

      • TomTom

        You have to be Houdini to work at GCHQ/MI6 and zip yourself in a holdall

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