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The Queen formally opens National Cyber Security Centre

UK cyber chief talks tough in the face of hacker threats

A padlock on a motherboard surrounded by keys

Britain's new National Cyber Security Centre, a new institution tasked with defending the country against cyber attacks, was officially opened today by Queen Elizabeth II.

The new division, which is part of GCHQ, officially replaces various other government agencies that had cybersecurity roles, including the CCA, CESG, CERT UK and more.

It will be responsible for advising businesses and public bodies on infosec issues, as well as undertaking security research and handling incident response for major security breaches.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, NCSC chief Ciaran Martin was bullish about the future of cybersecurity in the UK, saying that he aims to make it "the best place to live and work online".

"Today, London becomes a key global player in the fight against the world's biggest and fastest growing threat," he said, "and it is the perfect location for the National Cyber Security Centre. It is the perfect place to coordinate our cybersecurity and manage incidents across the UK."

He also highlighted the importance of education and training among young people, presenting a gender-balanced roster of some of the first beneficiaries of the NCSC's youth outreach programmes.

However, Martin also said cyber attacks are "a fact of modern life" for a prosperous country like the UK.

His comments follow on from a statement he made yesterday, in which he warned of the dangers posed by state-sponsored Russian hackers and said that he expects a "category one" cyber attack to hit the UK at some point in the future. 

Martin was frank about the potentially rocky start the institute will face, too. "It's ambitious. We will make mistakes. Initiatives will disappoint. Things will go wrong. Bear with us, because we'll make it work for the whole country."

Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said the digital sector is worth 118 billion to the UK economy, adding: "This cutting-edge centre will cement our position as world leader in cyber security and work carried out here will ensure our country remains resilient to potential attacks.

"Britain is transforming its capabilities in cyber defence and deterrence. It's crucial we take action now to defend ourselves and protect our economy."

Private sector welcomes NCSC

The private sector has responded favourably to the NCSC's opening, praising the government's commitment to strengthening the country's infosec position. "Whilst the UK has not suffered from a tier one cyber threat, the growing level of sustained cyber attacks on UK businesses means we must not be complacent," said techUK's head of programme for cyber and national security, Tala Rajab.

"The NCSC, with the help of the private sector, must work to make the UK the hardest possible target for cyber criminals and help protect our growing digital economy. In order for the NCSC to do this, it must be accessible by both businesses and the general public, protecting a far wider range of sectors beyond just Critical National Infrastructure."

Rajab added: "Recently announced policy initiatives, such as the trialling of proactive cyber defence services on government departments before recommending them to businesses, are to be applauded and techUK looks forward to working with the NCSC to help it achieve its target of making the UK the safest place in the world to live and work online."

Kaspersky Lab's principal security researcher, David Emm, was particularly pleased with the NCSC's engagement with young people, saying: "Our dependence on technology and the ever-growing online security threat go hand-in-hand, so it's crucial that we start raising awareness and equipping children with cybersecurity skills as early as possible. It is crucial that, once taught cybersecurity skills, young people use these skills for the good of society instead of turning to cybercrime." 

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