UK Cyber Security Strategy - even more bureaucracy, but no financial budget, legislative power or democratic accountibility

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Back in November 2007, Spy Blog commented: Countering terrorism with more quangos - more detail of Gordon Brown's security statement

The Labour Government has now published, without bothering to consult the general public, its first public UK Cyber Security Strategy, "coincidentally" in the same week as the US government re-launched their own military Cyberspace Command plans.

Cyber Security Strategy of the United Kingdom - safety, security and resilience in cyber space - June 2009 (.pdf 32 pages)

New Cyber Organisations

The Cyber Security Strategy sets out the Government's plans to establish two new organisations, both of which will be established in September 2009, and will be operational by the end of March 2010:

ocs_logo_258.jpg

An Office of Cyber Security (OCS) to provide strategic leadership for and coherence across Government. The OCS will establish and oversee a cross-government programme to address priority areas in pursuit of the UK's strategic cyber security objectives.

csoc_logo_300.jpg

A Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) that will bring together existing functions: to actively monitor the health of cyber space and co-ordinate incident response; to enable better understanding of attacks against UK networks and users; and to provide better advice and information about the risks to business and the public.

[...]

3.22 Both new structures will be established in September 2009 and will be operational by the end of March 2010.

Some obvious Spy Blog questions:

Does either the Office of Cyber Security or the Cyber Security Operations Centre

  • have an elected Cabinet Minister directly responsible for it, and democratically accountable for its failures (or, in theory, responsible for its successes) ?

  • have even a junior elected Minister directly responsible for it, and democratically accountable for its failures (or, in theory, responsible for its successes) ?

  • have even a senior Civil Servant of Permanent Secretary rank directly responsible for it, and professionally accountable for its failures (or, in theory, responsible for its successes) ?

  • have any independent budget to spend on Cyber Security ? If so, then how much ?

  • replace any of the other existing bureaucratic agencies, offices, departments, quangos, non-departmental government bodies etc, ?

  • have any planned strong statutory legal enforcement powers i.e. criminal prosecutions with fines and or prison sentences ?

  • have any planned weak statutory legal enforcement powers e.g. like the Information Commissioner ?

  • have the power to cancel or amend Government IT projects and IT contracts if they are fail the Cyber Security standards ?

  • have the power to cancel or amend Government IT projects and IT contracts if they fail the Privacy and Liberty Proportionality criteria ?

  • be easily and securely contactable by the general public via secure SSL/ TLS encrypted web response forms, or PGP encrypted emails or by (freephone) telephone ?

  • be easily and securely contactable by the people who look after Critical National Infrastructure systems via secure SSL/ TLS encrypted web response forms, or PGP encrypted emails or by (freephone) telephone ?

  • be easily and securely contactable by the general public or by Critical National Infrastructure people, most of whom work in the private sector, 24hours a day, 7days a week, including holidays ?

If, as we suspect, the answers to most of these questions is "no", then this UK Cyber Security Strategy is worse than useless, and is just some more Must Be Seen To Be Doing Something political propaganda.

This "strategy" looks like something which the now defunct Office of the e-Envoy and the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit both failed to achieve.

Wading through the "engagement / stakeholder / addressing / combating" etc. spin doctor / management consultant nuspeak, some paragraphs do stand out:

There is a "vision" statement:

Citizens, business and government can enjoy the full benefits of a safe, secure and resilient cyber space: working together, at home and overseas, to understand and address the risks, to reduce the benefits to criminals and terrorists, and to seize opportunities in cyber space to
enhance the UK's overall security and resilience.

Incredibly, for a document which must have been approved by Admiral Lord West of Spithead, the unelected, democratically unaccountable Home Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), and a former Chief of Defence Intelligence and former First Sea Lord in charge of the entire Royal Navy, there is an astonishing reference to military history, both in the Executive Summary and repeated in the Conclusion, and also quoted in the Press Release

Just as in the 19th century we had to secure the seas for our national safety and prosperity, and in the 20th century we had to secure the air, in the 21st century we also have to secure our advantage in cyber space. This Strategy - our first national Strategy for cyber security - is an important step towards that goal.

[...]

4.2 Just as in the 19th century we had to secure the seas for our national safety and prosperity, and in the 20th century we had to secure the air, in the 21st century we also have to secure our position in cyber space.

So is the plan to create a militarily dominant Cyber Space Military Force, capable of taking on not just one, but any two potential global adversaries simultaneously, like the Royal Navy was designed to do in the 19th and 20th centuries ?

When exactly in the 20th century did the UK "secure the air" ? After the end of the First World War, Britain was never again the dominant "air power".

There is a mention of an unspecified UK offensive military Cyber Space attack capability, as well as of vague defensive capabilities.

2.11 We also recognise that when criminals, terrorists and others use cyber space for malicious purposes they are also exposing themselves to new risks. Cyber space is therefore a useful domain for the UK to exploit to our advantage in fighting crime and terrorism, as well as in the military sphere.

2.12 There is an ongoing and broad debate regarding what 'cyber warfare' might entail, but it is a point of consensus that with a growing dependence upon cyber space, the defence and exploitation of information systems are increasingly important issues for national security. We recognise the need to develop military and civil capabilities, both nationally and with allies, to ensure we can defend against attack, and take steps against adversaries where necessary.

That does not appear to be equivalent to the Royal Navy's "two fleets" strategy of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Of course, anything which might actually be useful in a detailed, informed, public debate on this Strategy, is being kept secret:

1.4. There is obviously a degree to which the disclosure of information regarding the UK's cyber security capabilities could be exploited by potential adversaries. Balanced against this risk, however, is the Government's strong belief in making public as much information as possible. In this document we have made every effort to withhold only information which
would compromise our national security aims were it to be released.

Further detailed disclosures might "compromise our national security aims" if those aims include "Being Seen To Be Doing Something" and "Not Being Criticised For Incompetence".They would not necessarily worsen the real threats to national security.

There are some weasel worded promises:

Our approach will be proportionate to the risks and we will put the protection and promotion of our fundamental rights and values at the heart of our work.

[...]

Security and Liberty

1.12 The Government believes that the continuing openness of the Internet and cyber space is fundamental to our way of life, promoting the free flow of ideas to strengthen democratic ideals and deliver the economic benefits of globalisation. Our approach seeks to preserve and
protect the rights to which we are accustomed (including privacy and civil liberties) because it is on these rights that our freedoms depend. A fundamental challenge for any government is to balance measures intended to protect security and the right to life with the impact they may have on the other rights that we cherish and which form the basis of our society.

1.13 Cyber security poses particular challenges in meeting the tests of necessity and proportionality, as the distributed, de-centralised form of cyber space means that a wide range of tools must be deployed to tackle those who wish to use it to harm the UK's interests. A clear ethical foundation and appropriate safeguards on use are essential to ensure that the power of these tools is not abused.

However, exactly the same sort of Orwellian newspeak is used by Labour politicians and Civil Servants to describe the existing Database State Surveillance policies, which only pay lip service to the Principles of Data Protection and our Fundamental Human Rights to privacy, free speech, freedom to travel, freedom to associate etc.


The Strategy seems to be mainly a job creation scheme for another layer of bureaucracy:

To address the UK's cyber security challenges, the Government will:

  • Establish a cross-government programme with additional funding to address the following priority areas in pursuit of the UK's strategic cyber security objectives:
    • Safe Secure & Resilient Systems
    • Policy, Doctrine, Legal & Regulatory issues
    • Awareness & Culture Change
    • Skills & Education
    • Technical Capabilities & Research and Development
    • Exploitation
    • International Engagement
    • Governance, Roles & Responsibilities

  • Work closely with the wider public sector, industry, civil liberties groups, the public and with international partners;

  • Set up an Office of Cyber Security (OCS) to provide strategic leadership for and coherence across Government;

How much "additional funding" ? Will this be "new money" or simply the usual Labour government "double counting" of already allocated existing budgets ?

At least 8 bureaucratic "workstream" committees, with plenty of foreign travel for "consultation" with "partners" will be set up.

N.B. there are no quantitatively measurable criteria which would allow the public to judge if this Office of Cyber Security is a success or a failure

There are parallels with the now defunct, yet arguably more powerful, Office of the E-envoy.


  • Create a Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) to:
    • actively monitor the health of cyber space and co-ordinate incident response;
    • enable better understanding of attacks against UK networks and users;
    • provide better advice and information about the risk to business and the public.

So what is the Cyber Security Operations Centre going to do , which the other existing agencies and quangos are not already doing e.g. CESG, CPNI, CERT, CEOP, SOCA, MI5, Police Computer Crime units etc?

3 Comments

This is just a strategy - the critique here is looking at the tactical and operational arguments. Surely, those answers will come in due course.

Having a strategy is a start. Given the observable damage that is caused through cyber space, I am proud that our Government is taking steps to address this are.

Finally, the OCS cannot be compared to the OeE, which was much more generic. The OCS is a specifically focused department for a specific threat, which has ramification on our national security.

@ Mayur - there have been plenty of aspirational or propaganda "strategies" in the past, but little practical, effective action.

The Office of the e-Envoy, at least when it was led by Alex Allan (who subsequently became a Permanent Secretary and then the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee), had direct contact with the then Prime Minister.

This announcement seems to imply that the Office of Cyber Security will not have even that level of influence, and will have no real power over other Government departments, or agencies, or the private sector providers of the Critical National Infrastructure.

And the later eGovernment Unit in Cabinet Office also had direct PM contact - but at the end of 2004 he blocked its plans to sort out government ICT.

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notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers