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RUSI Research on ‘The UK Cyber Strategy: Challenges for the Next Phase

Royal United Services Institute research paper on ‘The UK Cyber Strategy: Challenges for the Next Phase’.

The Royal United Services Institute has released a briefing paper entitled ‘The UK Cyber Strategy: Challenges for the Next Phase’.

Mid-way through the current National Cyber Security Strategy 2016-2021 the paper has been produced to shift focus onto developing the next strategy, including incorporating work already underway in Government and industry. Informing this work has been a number of expert roundtable workshops bringing together UK Government, law enforcement, academia and the private sector.

The document examines the progress to date under the current strategy and seeks to answer the following questions:

  • The UK’s future approach to cyber security requires a whole of society response, with a greater emphasis on the private sector’s role. What should the role of the private sector and wider society be and how will they be incentivised to play this part?
  • By making cyber security and foreign investment about one country, one company and one technology, the Huawei debate risks obscuring the wider issue. How should the UK tackle the cyber security issues associated with the globalisation of technology?
  • The 2016 National Cyber Security Strategy has been characterised by a central authority in the Cabinet Office leading a complex cross-Whitehall implementation programme. To what extent should cyber security become business as usual across all areas of government after 2021, rather than a centrally managed strategy with ring-fenced investment?
  • The UK should capitalise on its position at the forefront of cyber on the international stage. In a post-Brexit environment, what should the UK’s international approach to cyber security look like?

Key Takeaways

Role of Government and the Private Sector – It is clear that the next strategy will not be supported by funding on the same scale as its current incarnation. Clearly Government sees the private sector playing a larger role through initiatives like Active Cyber Defence and Industry100. However those programmes are in relatively early stages with large amounts of further engagement necessary. Its also clear that in light of the expected reduction in funding, difficult decisions will need to be made around the prioritisation of key initiatives. Whilst industry might be expected to play a larger role, it cannot be expected to do so in the same way Government has operated the current strategy.                                                                                                   

Raising Cyber Standards – Government has itself acknowledged that progress in raising cyber standards has been worse than envisaged. Despite high profile cyber incidents and a bigger spotlight from the press and at board level, organisations often struggle to find the right balance between protection and cost. RUSI suggests here that regulation might be the answer with lessons learned from the EU GDPR and NIS implementations, though its clear that this approach faces significant challenges.

The Globalisation of Technology - The report asserts that technological, societal and international factors will continue to alter the threat landscape. A key factor will continue to be national security interests and the globalised tech marketplace and how Governments are able to come to terms with these developing dynamics.

UK Cyber Capacity – RUSI suggests that the UK remains a leading cyber nation, but one which is making slow progress with limited impact in some key areas such as skills. In developing the next strategy RUSI challenges Government collaborate more effectively with partners in industry and academia.

International Context and Offensive Cyber – The report discusses the strong reputation the UK has internationally and the aggressive stance it has taken in the face of recent state-sponsored attacks. Developing this role and leveraging it more effectively will be a key strand of the next strategy. RUSI also highlights the need for a broder debate around the impact of Offensive Cyber Defence and the UK’s wider commitment to open and secure internet.

Implementation – RUSI argues that the creation of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was a key success from the previous strategy and one which will make implementation of future initiatives easier, though only if given the right resources and funding. Again, underlined here is the need for a more joined up, collaborative approach with industry.

To access the full RUSI report please click here.


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