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By Yvonne Headington

06 Nov 11. Over 700 individuals from more than 60 countries, including China, India and Russia, attended the London Conference on Cyberspace on 1-2 November. Addressing the opening session in front of an audience of senior politicians, industrialists, civil society representatives and youth groups, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that: “Freedom of expression cuts to the very heart of the debate about the future of cyberspace”.

The irony was not lost on journalists corralled in the media centre away from proceedings with only limited access to selected events via a dodgy video-link. As recorded by The Telegraph’s correspondent, frustrated hacks “simply left”.

It was unfortunate that administrative and technical glitches overshadowed this international cyber fest, the first event of its kind. The intention was laudable, aimed at developing “a better collective understanding of how to protect and preserve the tremendous opportunities that the development of cyberspace offers”. The conference also succeeded in bringing together an impressive list of speakers, including the US Vice-President, the UK’s Prime Minister and the President of Estonia.

However, expertise was thin on the ground and the closing platitudes predictable; as illustrated by the Foreign Secretary’s “reflections” which included the self-evident observations that there is “the need for a safe and secure future in cyberspace” and that “governments cannot determine the future of the internet and digital networks alone”.

Presentations and debates focused on five themes: economic growth & development, social benefits, cyber crime, safe & reliable access and international security. There was support for initiatives to ensure internet access, privacy and safety – balanced by a call for cyberspace “to be free from government and commercial censorship”.

On the subject of international security (which was debated in a private session) it was agreed that “states should continue to comply with existing rules of international law and the traditional norms of behaviour that govern interstate relations, the use of force and armed conflict”. There is “no appetite at this stage to expend effort on new legally-binding international instruments”. Such sentiments appear to stymie moves toward an international treaty on cyberwarfare which some countries, including Russia, support.

There was consensus on the issue of cybercrime and that adoption by countries of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime would be the most encouraging way forward for combating this increasing menace. The problem of cybercrime is viewed as a shared responsibility between governments and industry, and delegates agreed that the private sector should take the lead in developing security products, systems and standards. This theme fits well with UK ambitions for encouraging commercial innovation and investment in cyber assurance technologies. As stated by the Foreign Secretary “We want to make the UK the pre-eminent safe space for e-commerce and intellectual property online”.

The Foreign Secretary’s sales pitch was supported by a ‘Cyber Industry Showcase’. Amethyst, specialists in information security, was one of the smaller companies exhibiting at the Conference. The company, employing just 15 people, was established in 2008 and describes itself as the “customer’s friend” – providing risk management services for the commercial and government sectors.

More familiar names included PWC who treated delegates to a crisis management demonstration on emerging cyber security issues, together with a discussion on what could be done to protect organisations. Using actors this “innovative presentation” illustrated what can happen when an organisation suffers a security breach and the impact such events can have if not dealt with properly.

Ultra Electronics displayed its crypto and key management products, as supplied to th

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