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Commercial cyber capabilities must be used legally and responsibly, says UK NCSC CEO

Lindy Cameron's speech at Tel Aviv Cyber Week emphasised the importance of partnerships and international regulation of sophisticated cyber capabilities.

The head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has delivered an international speech emphasising the importance of legal and responsible use of commercial cyber capabilities.

Speaking to an audience at the globally prestigious Cyber Week hosted by Tel Aviv University, Lindy Cameron also discussed how the ties between academia, industry, and governments are key to countering the latest cyber threats.

The CEO of the UK NCSC – which is part of the world-leading intelligence agency GCHQ – will say that even following the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine, ransomware remains the biggest global cyber threat most organisations must manage.

She will also praised Ukrainian cyber defenders for their response to Russia’s invasion, highlighting the resilience of their networks in repelling many attacks. She said:

“Russia has consistently used cyber pressure to stress its rivals, distract them, and where possible disable them.

“But – just as they have on the battlefield – the Ukrainian cyber defenders have done an incredible job of repelling many of these attacks. They are real heroes.

“And I think resilience and preparation are at the heart of this success.”

The main focus of her speech was the international regulation of sophisticated cyber capabilities. Lindy Cameron said:

“If we’re going to maintain a cyberspace which is a safe and prosperous place for everyone, it is vital that such capabilities are produced and used in a way that is legal, responsible and proportionate.

“I am delighted that Israel has tightened export controls around these tools, making it far more difficult for nations with concerning records on privacy and human rights to acquire such intrusive spyware.

“It is really important that every actor, from the developer to the end-user of these types of technology and capability acts responsibly, with appropriate safeguards to protect against misuse.”

Describing Israel as a “shining” example of what can be done when a nation takes cyber security seriously, she said:

“The technology developed here is truly world class. The talent in the cyber security sector is second to none. And your defences are some of the strongest in the world.

“But making the most of our digital future is too big an issue for any one nation to handle alone.

“Whether it is drip feed irrigation or health and climate tech, Israel has always been proud to innovate for the benefit of people, well beyond your borders.

“So, I hope you will continue to produce cyber security solutions which are safe, strong but also affordable for the whole world.”

Turning to ransomware and how the upward trend of the commercialisation of such capabilities dramatically lowers the technical knowhow required to conduct criminal operations, she said:

“But - even with a war raging in Ukraine - the biggest global cyber threat we still face is ransomware. That tells you something of the scale of the problem.

“Ransomware attacks strike hard and fast. They are evolving rapidly, they are all-pervasive, they're increasingly offered by gangs as a service, lowering the bar for entry into cyber crime.

“And that's what makes them such a threat – not just the nationally significant incidents that my team and I we deal with in the NCSC, but also the hundreds of incidents we see that affect the UK more widely every year.

“These complex attacks have the potential to affect our societies and economies significantly, if it were not for the expertise of our incident management operators working in collaboration with their counterparts in industry and their international counterparts gathered here today.”

Returning to the theme of partnerships, Lindy Cameron emphasised that prosperous relationships between different institutions are key to countering the latest cyber threats:

“To succeed, partnerships are essential. So, we are building stronger ties between academia, industry and government.

“We must come together around our shared values. Each nation bringing its own particular skills and strengths to build a network which is naturally resilient to attack, one which favours innovation, discourse and creativity over control and coercion.”

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