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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at CyberUK 2021

techUK has summarised the key points from Rt Hon Dominic Raab's speech at CyberUK 2021.

The Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Dominic Raab, gave a speech on the international dimensions of cyber security as part of CyberUK 2021. This started by looking at the huge physical ramifications of successful cyber attacks such as the WannaCry incident, where a ransomware attack led to the shutdown of vital medical equipment, leaving the safety of patients jeopardised. Raab stressed that if this had been a physical attack, it would have been central to public debate, but given its virtual origins it was largely hidden from public view. Going forward, the Foreign Secretary was insistent that this mentality of not treating online threats seriously must change because online capabilities are now a major part of the real world, and these threats must be treated with the seriousness they deserve.

The Foreign Secretary then quoted Harvard’s Belfer Centre which has argued that the UK is a leading cyber power and suggested that Britain needs to use this advantage to shape cyberspace to our advantage. In order to achieve this, we cannot just rely on our coders and computer scientists, but must also train and support others impacted by cyber, including teachers, doctors and diplomats. With a cyber export market worth £4bn a year and world class cyber hubs such as London and Belfast, the UK has an underlying advantage in science and technology and it needs to use this advantage to deal with the threats to open societies including criminal gangs and authoritarian powers.

Despite this advantage, it is crucial to understand the full spectrum of threats we face, from cyber criminals who knocked out the largest pipeline in the US last weekend causing severe economic disruption to the NotPetya attacks which led to delays causing over £7m in economic damages. There were also widescale attacks on vaccine development centres in the hope of disrupting their development.

In total last year, the NCSC dealt with a huge number of sabotage threats from the industrial vandals of the 21st century. Raab emphasised that foreign states should not harbour these criminals who undermine our confidence in our ability to do the simple things of and that the government was committed to defending Britain’s daily life.  He stated the government was doing this in three primary ways:

  1. Building up our domestic defences

A sustained programme to make us a global leader in cyber to take down more malicious sites. We want businesses and families to take the basic steps to stay safe online. Early warning systems in the NCSC and we want to protect consumers from cyber attacks on IoT devices.

  1. Building our offensive cyber systems

Target those that take aim at us. Bringing together National Cyber Force which undertakes targeted activities to support our way of life. Stop criminals taking advantage. We used cyber to impact ISIS and stop their growth across Iraq & Syria. We will act in accordance with International Law. In the UK we insist on democratic accountability, which is something our adversaries don’t do.

  1. Support our allies and the democratic system

10 Years ago we brought together countries for universal rules for use of the internet. Today as you’d expect we’re working together with close allies. We want a response to countries that systematically do cyber attacks. UK government will invest 22m in supporting cyber capabilities in vulnerable countries helping advise mass safety campaigns and support their security services.

Raab ended the speech by saying ’We have the capacity to defend the world’s online freedom. That’s our mission as Global Britain and as a global technological cyber power.’ techUK supports the government in this mission.


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