Cyber crime: Britain 'lacks skills' to tackle £27bn threat

Feb 12, 2013

The UK could be vulnerable to 'persistent' cyber attacks for 20 years due to ability gap

BRITAIN'S fight against cyber crime is being hampered by a serious skills gap that could take two decades to fill, according to a report from the public spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office (NAO) warns today that the number of IT and cyber security professionals has not grown in line with internet usage, leaving many at risk of online fraud. According to Cabinet Office figures, cyber crime costs the UK up to £27bn every year, with the NAO labelling the threat "persistent and continually evolving".

Education officials questioned by the spending watchdog said it could take 20 years to address the ability gap, warning the current supply of graduates lack the skills to meet the demand. Cyber attacks are considered a serious security issue, ranked as one of the top four national risks to Britain in 2010.

MI5's director-general Jonathan Evans warned that "industrial-scale processes" were undermining both businesses and state security in a public speech in 2012, notes the Daily Telegraph. He said: "This is a threat to the integrity, confidentiality and availability of government information but also to business and to academic institutions."

Despite the skills gap, the NAO found elements of the government's cyber security strategy are working, with the Serious Organised Crime Agency catching more than 2.3 million compromised debit or credit cards since 2011, preventing a loss of £500m, and Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, blocking £292m-worth of attempted scams in 2012.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, called on the government to deliver a "robust" cyber security strategy in response to the report but the Cabinet Office claimed the UK was already "investing heavily in research and education".

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