THE THREAT OF CYBER ATTACKS facing the UK has reached "astonishing" levels, the head of the British government's internal security service MI5 has warned.
Speaking at London's Mansion House on Monday evening, Jonathan Evans said that cyber crime facing both the government and businesses in Blighty is on an "industrial scale" and is a danger to the integrity of information.
"Vulnerabilities in the internet are being exploited aggressively, and not just by criminals but also by states," Evans said in his speech.
"The extent of what is going on is astonishing - with industrial scale processes involving many thousands of people lying behind both State sponsored cyber espionage and organised cyber crime."
Evans explained that it's not just government secrets that are at stake, but also the safety and security of the UK's infrastructure along with intellectual property and commercially sensitive information "that is the life-blood of our companies and corporations".
Using an example of how one major London listed company incurred revenue losses of some £800m as a result of a hostile state cyber attack, Evans warned that companies are becoming increasingly susceptible to the growing threat of cyber crime. "[The London listed company] will not be the only corporate victim of these problems," Evans said.
The MI5 head added that to protect the country and make it more resilient against such attacks, the UK should engage not just the government but also the private sector.
"The front line in cyber security is as much in business as it is in government," Evans said. "The Boards of all companies should consider the vulnerability of their own company to these risks as part of their normal corporate governance - and they should require their key advisors and suppliers to do the same."
Evans also warned that terrorism is shifting from physical acts of violence to more subtle attacks carried out from behind computer screens.
"Britain's National Security Strategy makes it clear that cyber security ranks alongside terrorism as one of the key security challenges facing the UK," he said. "This is a threat to the integrity, confidentiality and availability of government information."
The news comes a week after the University of Cambridge released a study that reported the UK is spending £1bn a year on cyber security, and argued that it should focus more on cyber policing and less on antivirus software. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ