Davos 2013: UK signs up to online safety plan

Man using a laptop The European Commission is to announce new measures to tackle cyber crime next month

The UK government has signed up to an initiative to help countries and companies work together to make themselves safer from cyber attacks.

It is the latest signatory of the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Partnering for Cyber Resilience initiative.

Speaking at Davos, UK Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said nations had to work together to tackle what was one of the top four threats to the UK.

Brussels is due to make an announcement on the subject on 7 February.

Mr Maude said protection against cyber crime was currently not as strong as that against things like terrorism or tackling the drugs trade.

"Only by working together can we ensure the world can continue to realise the benefits of the internet," he said.

European Union digital commissioner Neelie Kroes said measures to be introduced in February would require EU member states to cooperate with each other.

The WEF principles requite signatories to recognise the importance of cooperation, develop risk management programmes and encourage partners and suppliers to adopt the same commitments.

Mr Maude quoted Ian Livingstone, chief executive of BT as saying, "There are two types of chief executives: those that know they've been attacked and those that don't."

'Like an epidemic'

The minister stressed that hacking was already illegal so what was needed was for companies to work together to fight the threats.

Earlier this month, a committee of MPs warned that the UK was being complacent about the threat to national security from a cyber attack on the armed forces.

Cyber attacks threaten governments, companies and individuals, which all rely on internet access.

Francis Maude UK minister Francis Maude says cyber attacks are among the top four threats to the UK

Without protection, hackers may be able to prevent any of them using online services or steal sensitive information.

Jolyon Barker from Deloitte, who advises WEF on the subject, said the cyber threat was "like a disease epidemic - if you don't get inoculated you put everyone at risk".

He said the key was to train employees to act responsibly to stop hackers being able to gain access to networks, plan how you would inform other companies of an attack, and prepare how you would keep the company going under attack.

He added that the security work was critical if things like banking services on mobile phones or online voting were to catch on.

John Hering, founder of a mobile app called Lookout, said that the mobile word was crucial to maximising cyber security.

"Everything is becoming connected - there are devices you wear that keep track of your heart rate and thermostats that connect through wifi - so cellular infrastructure has become critical infrastructure," he said.

"We're starting to see bad guys migrating to mobile."

Lookout uses reports of problems with other apps to warn other users' mobile devices of a potential threat.

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