Anti-cyber threat centre launched

Trader watching stocks on screen Cyber attack can cost companies profits and value

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A new initiative to share information on cyber threats between businesses and government is to be launched.

It will include experts from government communications body GCHQ, MI5, police and business and aims to better co-ordinate responses to the threats.

There will be a secure web-portal to allow access to shared information in real time, like a "secure Facebook".

UK networks are attacked by other states, criminals and companies seeking secrets, costing billions of pounds.

In 2012, the head of MI5 Jonathan Evans said the scale of attacks was "astonishing".

One major London listed company had incurred revenue losses of £800m as a result of cyber attack from a hostile state because of commercial disadvantage in contractual negotiations.

One government official told the BBC: "No one has full visibility on cyberspace threats. We see volumes of attack increase and we expect it to continue to rise."

The plan - the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) - has emerged out of a 2012 pilot scheme known as Project Auburn.

Eighty companies from five sectors of the economy - finance, defence, energy, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals - were encouraged to share information.

The pilot was expanded to 160 firms. A more permanent structure is being announced on Wednesday.

The kind of information shared includes technical details of an attack, methods used in planning it and how to mitigate and deal with one.

At a new London base, large screens will monitor attacks and provide details in real-time of who is being targeted.

A group of 12-15 analysts with security clearance will work mainly during office hours.

Companies previously have been nervous of revealing publicly when they have been attacked because of the potential impact on reputation and share price if they are seen as having lost valuable intellectual property or other information.

It is hoped further firms will join the initial 160.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: "We know cyber attacks are happening on an industrial scale and businesses are by far the biggest victims in terms of industrial espionage and intellectual property theft, with losses to the UK economy running into the billions of pounds annually.

"This innovative partnership is breaking new ground through a truly collaborative partnership for sharing information on threats and to protect UK interests in cyberspace."

Government officials say they continue to be uncomfortable with an EU draft directive which would force companies to disclose when they have been attacked.

They hope a voluntary partnership will provide a more workable solution.

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