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BETT 2018: Children need to grow into more than ‘digital consumers’, says apprenticeships minister

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Children in the UK need to grow up to be more than just “digital consumers”, according to Anne Milton, minister of state for apprenticeships and skills.

Milton told the audience at BETT 2018 that because 90% of newly created jobs now require digital skills, children need to grow up to be “more than just digital consumers, but practitioners and creatives”.

“We need to make sure that the enthusiasm that students have for digital skills and learning is translated far beyond the classroom and right into the workplace,” she said.

Already, less than half of adults in the UK have the digital skills needed to complete basic digital tasks, and 9% of people have never used the internet.

Without proper technology education across the entire skills pipeline, this issue is unlikely to go away as children reach working age and take up jobs that do not yet exist.

Milton said: “Many of our best and brightest companies are telling us they are struggling to recruit the digital talent they need not just now but in the future, so I would like to focus on what we are doing at every stage of education to develop the digital skills we need to address those challenges.”

Despite the UK being one of the global leaders in technology development, Milton admitted many schools lack the budget and skills to use tech.

To harness technology’s “potential effectiveness”, Milton highlighted some of the steps the government has taken to improve technology facilities and computing teaching in schools.

For example, in the Autumn Budget, it was announced that 100 schools would be part of the local full-fibre programme to ensure they are getting a good internet service.

The Budget also included £84m to be invested over the next five years to improve the expertise of the country’s 8,000 computing teachers and try to encourage higher uptake of computer science courses – especially among girls, who are under-represented in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.

Last year saw the introduction of vocational routes into technical roles through apprenticeships and T-levels, designed as a “dynamic” alternative to A-levels to develop the digital and technical skills the industry needs.        

Milton said the investment is intended to build on the new computing curriculum developed in 2014 to teach young people skills such as coding and computation thinking – a move Milton described as a “step-change” from previous teaching content and methods.

But she warned that these initiatives would not solve the problems faced by schools unless there is proper implementation.

Part of this is ensuring that there is collaboration between government, education providers and the technology industry to ensure children have a better understanding of what is involved in tech jobs.

Many misconceptions still surround Stem roles and careers, including the idea that only “geeky” people pursue roles in these sectors, something Milton said the industry could tackle by ensuring young people are given better-quality careers advice.

She said the government published a strategy last year that suggested young people should have more contact with employers so they can see how “enjoyable and fulfilling” technology jobs can be.

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Hefty fines confirmed for CNI providers with poor cyber security

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The government is warning the UK’s most critical industries to boost cyber security or face hefty fines for leaving themselves vulnerable to attack.

Energy, transport, water, health and other critical services firms could be fined up to £17m if they fail to have the most robust safeguards in place against cyber attack after May this year.

The fines are part of a new package of measures the government is introducing to implement the European Union’s (EU’s) Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive. 

The new measures follow the consultation in 2017 by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) seeking views from industry on how to implement the NIS Directive from 10 May 2018.

The government has announced that new regulators will be able to assess critical industries to make sure plans are as robust as possible.

The government claims a “simple, straightforward” reporting system will be set up to make it easy to report cyber breaches and IT failures so they can be quickly identified and acted upon.

This is aimed at ensuring ensure UK operators in electricity, transport, water, energy, transport, health and digital infrastructure are prepared to deal with the increasing numbers of cyber threats.

The new measures also cover other threats affecting IT such as power outages, hardware failures and environmental hazards.

Under the new measures recent cyber breaches such as WannaCry and high profile systems failures would be covered by the NIS Directive.

These incidents would have to be reported to the regulator who would assess whether appropriate security measures were in place. The regulator will have the power to issue legally-binding instructions to improve security, and – if appropriate – impose financial penalties.

The new measures, which relate to loss of service by IT networks and information systems, will be introduced around the same time as new UK data protection legislation that will also provide for fines of up to £17m for failure to take adequate measure to protect personal data.

Margot James, minister for digital and the creative industries said the new and robust cyber security measures are aimed at ensuring the UK is the safest place in the world to live and be online. “We want our essential services and infrastructure to be primed and ready to tackle cyber attacks and be resilient against major disruption to services.

“I encourage all public and private operators in these essential sectors to take action now and consult the National Cyber Security Centre’s advice on how they can improve their cyber security,” she said.

Guidance on security measures

The NCSC has published detailed guidance on the security measures to help organisations comply. These are based around 14 key principles set out in the government’s consultation and government response, and are aligned with existing cyber security standards.

NCSC chief Ciaran Martin said the new guidance will give clear advice on what organisations need to do to implement essential cyber security measures. “Network and information systems give critical support to everyday activities, so it is absolutely vital that they are as secure as possible,” he said.

The government notes the fines would be a last resort and will not apply to operators which have assessed the risks adequately, taken appropriate security measures and engaged with regulators but still suffered an attack.

Following the consultation, incident reporting arrangements have been simplified, with operators reporting to their Competent Authority. Penalties will be fixed at a maximum of £17m and the new legislation will be made clearer for companies to know whether they have to comply with the NIS Directive.

The government said that the measures to implement the NIS Directive will ensure essential service operator are implementing robust cyber defences, and are an important part of the UK’s five-year £1.9bn National Cyber Security Strategy to protect the nation from cyber threats and make the UK the safest place to live and work online.

Freedom of information

In August 2017, freedom of information (FOI) requests by Corero Network Security revealed that 39% of CNI organisations in the UK have not completed the government’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security programme, with 42% of NHS Trusts who responded admitting they had not completed the programme.

The FOI findings suggest many critical infrastructure suppliers are not as cyber resilient as they should be in the face of growing and sophisticated cyber threats, and that they are not doing enough to address distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in particular.

The NIS Directive has largely gone unnoticed, according to Simon Shooter, a partner specialising in cyber security at international law firm Bird & Bird.

“While most businesses are squaring up to the challenges of GDPR compliance, the NIS Directive appears on few agendas,” he told Computer Weekly.

“Given that operators of essential services, including the defined Digital Service Providers, face the prospect of sanctions equal to those in the GDPR, compliance with the NIS Directive should be high on the priority list,” said Shooter. 

According to the UK’s technology trade association TechUK, it is important that the country’s critical infrastructure remains resilient to the growing cyber threat.

“That is why we welcome the robust plan put forward by the government for the implementation of the NIS Directive,” said Talal Rajab, head of programme, cyber and national security at TechUK

“More work still needs to be done, particularly with the 10 May deadline looming large, including the need for further details on the resources being made available to the various Competent Authorities and their respective legislative powers,” he said.

However, Rajab said TechUK is particularly pleased to see that detailed guidance has already been published by the NCSC on the security measures that organisations’ need to adopt in order to comply.

“Operators of essential services must act now and take heed of this guidance, ensuring that the essential services that we rely on are cyber resilient and secure,” he said.

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Business cyber crime up 63%, UK stats show  

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There were 4.7 million incidents of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 months to September 2017, a 15% decrease from the previous year, according to the latest crime figures for England and Wales.

Fraud fell from 3.6 million in 2015 to 3.2 million incidents in 2016, while computer misuse dropped from 2 million incidents in 2016 to 1.5 million in 2017, according to data gathered from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) (households), and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) (business).

The fall in fraud was driven mainly by decreases in consumer and retail fraud, such as offences related to online shopping or fraudulent computer service calls, the ONS report said, while the fall in computer misuse was mainly due to a 26% fall in reported incidents of computer malware and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

However, the report also reveals that 56% of fraud incidents were cyber related, 23% of computer misuse incidents (410,000) involved loss of money or goods relating to computer malware and DDoS attacks, and computer misuse crime referred to the NFIB by Action Fraud increased by 63%.

This rise in business-related computer misuse to 21,745 offences, the report said, is largely accounted for by a 145% rise in computer malware and DDoS attacks the past year to 8,292 offences.

More specifically, this is thought to be due to a rise in levels of malware, mainly ransomware and Trojans, including several high-profile attacks and security breaches on national institutions, including the WannaCry attacks in May 2017.

The latest figures suggest that while consumer-targeted attacks might be falling, as consumer-grade security improves, cyber criminals are now shifting their gaze to the potentially more profitable enterprise sector.

Andy Waterhouse, pre-sales director for Europe at RSA Security, said UK business is facing tougher conditions than ever as cyber attackers chase greater profits.

“In this post-WannaCry world, both consumers and organisations need to do more to assess their data, identify their most valuable assets, and protect these ‘crown jewels’ as best they can through a mix of multi-factor authentication, strong and unique passwords and a greater level of education on cyber skills,” he said.

Fraser Kyne, European CTO at Bromium, said the increase in in computer misuse incidents involving business is no surprise given the spate of ransomware and Trojan attacks in the past year.

“Last year was a year of mega-breaches that made clear how far ahead the bad guys are compared to the security industry. Businesses were shut down for long periods of time, too many ransoms were paid, the bad guys got richer and the security industry looked on, often powerless, as its tools were rendered useless by new and constantly evolving techniques,” he said.

However, Kyne said it was worth noting that this the ONS figures related only to reported crime. Reports can only tell us what has been detected and reported.

“These detected events prove that things are getting in; so we must also assume that things are getting in that are remaining undetected too. This is why we need tools that can protect us from the things that we can’t see or detect,” he said.

“Cyber crime will continue to flourish as long as the security industry remains reliant on detection-based security tools. With cyber criminals becoming more successful every year, we have to admit that the detection model is broken.

“The industry must respond with new ways of defending enterprises and the public at large to ensure that we don’t see the continued rise of cyber crime.”

According to Kyne, virtualisation can provide this protection to enterprises. “By running applications within their own completely isolated virtual machine, you can ensure that any malware directed at businesses is contained to that environment, unable to escape and infect the rest of the system.”

Josh Gunnell, fraud specialist at the Callcredit Information Group, said the latest ONS statistics clearly indicate that fraud remains a threat to every organisation in the country.

“With 3.2 million incidents of fraud in England and Wales and 1.8 million being cyber related, the worrying trend shows no signs of abating,” he said.

“This is especially pertinent considering the damaging impact the ongoing fraud threat has had on trust in organisations, with a majority of consumers we spoke to believing that fraudsters are always one step ahead of businesses.

“To win back consumer confidence, which is key to long-term success, businesses need to do everything they can to keep data and identities safe. Implementing smarter, more dynamic fraud prevention strategies, such as artificial intelligence, alongside traditional fraud prevention methods – and communicating these to their customers – can go a long way towards achieving this. In addition, the importance of using behavioural and location data to provide fraud insights cannot be overstated,” he added.

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