Conservatives very insecure about IT security

David Cameron today set out the Tory Party’s security agenda with a green paper entitled ‘A Resilient Nation’. In it, the Tory leader pledged that if we let him near Downing Street, he will defend the UK against cyber attacks, and promised to improve national security.

In a speech at Chatham House, he said, if elected, he will create a new Cyber Security Operations Centre which would provide intelligence about the online threats facing the country, as well as threat assessment and situational awareness facilities.

The Cyber Threat and Assessment Centre (CTAC), would also act as the single reporting point for all cyber-related incidents.

“As technology and computers and the Internet become bigger and bigger parts of our lives, the effect of cyber-warfare will become more pronounced,” Cameron said. “You only have to look at the so-called ‘Clickskrieg’ against Estonia in 2007 – which crippled the government and the banking sector and almost brought the entire country to a halt – for a sign of how serious a major attack could be.”

He also proposed a Cyber Security and Information Assurance Unit, to provide advice to government departments and businesses on computer security, network security, information security and information assurance. He sort of pitched it as a team of ninjas working in an IT department, checking everyone’s internet.

 “[We need] a Cyber Security and Information Assurance Unit, to provide advice to government departments and businesses on computer security, network security, information security and information assurance,” said Cameron.

The green paper ‘A Resilient Nation’ also tackles other areas of national security. Cameron also pointed out the bleeding obvious in his speech by proposing that it would be a bad thing if the ‘essential sectors of daily life – energy, food, water, transport, telecommunications, government and public services, emergency services, health and finance’ were compromised. Adding that they must be able to withstand and respond to extreme events such as attacks. Brilliant work there Dave.

Overall Cameron pledged that Conservative government will:

• Develop a National Integration Strategy which promotes the common English language and a sense of a shared history as the cornerstones of a successful community

• Focus the ‘Prevent’ Strategy on combating the extremism which promotes violence or hatred, not just violent extremism, and supporting those most vulnerable to radicalisation and those already radicalised through targeted intervention strategies

• Integrate counter terrorism tasking into effective community policing

Our favourite strategy is:

• Work with local authorities to deliver localised cohesion strategies which promote activities that increase contact and integration between communities

Which basically means getting people in councils to talk to people more. But to be honest, we were lost at ‘localised cohesion’.

TechEye tried today to speak to someone, anyone at Conservative HQ who could shed a bit more light on this and the strategy as a whole. How, for example, were the tories proposing to keep secure a single reporting point for all suspicious behaviour? How would they police suspicious activity? And what makes online activity suspicious anyway? Are the tories proposing something along the same lines as the Peter Mandelson way perhaps with his tough and unfair three strikes system? We wanted to hear from them exactly what they were saying.

But rather than being able to answer those questions, we were passed about like a bad penny. We spent up to twenty minutes talking to about ten different people in three departments. None of whom could help and none of whom could give out the press offices number, for security reasons. When we enquired as to whether it would be on the website we were met with a shocked “Oh no.”. We can’t go on like this, we were thinking, when someone took pity on us and an email was given out. We’ve emailed it. Three hours later an email came back saying someone would email us ‘either later this evening by email or tomorrow’. We suspect Paxman doesn’t get this kind of grief.

We will update this as and when we hear more, but perhaps if the Conservatives had a look at their ‘localised cohesion strategies which promote activities that increase contact and integration between communities’, this whole process might be easier.