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By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.

01 Jul 13. The US may well have been spying on the European Union for years but that is of far less concern to me than the fact that the issue on the news today helps raise the profile of potential for cyber attack. Everyone in business knows that the risk of cyber attack is real but sadly it seems that far too many of us persist in believing that it just won’t happen to us!

Virtually everything we now do is in some way or other controlled by a computer system of sorts. Our energy, communications, defence, transport, food supply and distribution, banking, manufacturing and virtually everything else is now dependent on IT and that is linked to the internet in some way. Without sophisticated cyber protection systems in place and that of necessity is being continually updated against new and emerging threats it is quite feasible that terrorists and cyber criminals really could hack their way into a system on which all of us rely bringing it to a complete halt.

Just as it has against the wider terrorist threat the Coalition Government has taken the cyber security threat very seriously. And while one doubts the possibility of a scenario such as hackers knocking out the UK power system, our communications, transport, a warship perhaps or that of our wider defence systems nothing can or will be taken for granted. Without adequate protection in place it could actually happen and it is something that in a world that is now so dependent on IT, electronic communications and the internet to make everything work means the threat of cyber attack really should be a worry for all of us.

Buzz words come and buzz words go but unlike the dreaded and unnecessary Y2K I believe that the issue of cyber security is here to stay. Everyone with a computer platform is under threat but it is government and the public sector along with the private sector, our utilities and those that provide with our trading and export lifelines that should be seen as being the most vulnerable to attack.

GCHQ director Sir Iain Lobban is reported by the BBC this morning suggesting that foreign hackers are attacking the UK on an industrial scale. Large organisations have been very aware of the threat for several years and take whatever precautions are available. Help is there. Organisations such as Detica, a subsidiary of BAE Systems, have been providing assistance against the threat of cyber attack for many years. In essence they provide support that enables security analysts to identify and manage cyber threats quickly and efficiently using data correlation and security analytics. Detica is in fact able to detect cyber criminals by actually monitoring their behaviour. This is a sophisticated technical process that I would not even pretend to understand but is clearly vital in the fight against cyber crime.

Sadly it seems that there are still far too many of us that have been burying heads in the sand failing to realise the dangers of potential cyber attack. Most cyber attacks are aimed at stealing company secrets, intellectual property and other private information of what a company is intending to do. Targeting everything form boardroom minutes and other private meetings that might contain private information on merger and acquisition intentions, manufacturing and system processes or theft the threat from cyber attack cannot be easily dismissed.

Government departments are high on the list of those most sought by cyber attackers along with our armed forces, intelligence and communication systems and not surprisingly, our defence companies.

The internet-related market in the UK is estimated by the government to be worth around £82bn per annum. In fact the official line is I understand that British businesses now earn £1 in every £5 earned from the internet. I have no idea whether this figure is correct but it is intere

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