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Sophos Comments: Military officer given task of “transforming” UK cyber security defence

March 2011 by Sophos

Armed forces minister Nick Harvey has announced the appointment of an unnamed, “very senior military officer” to take command of the Government’s Defence Cyber Operations Group, which was set up late last year.

Sophos’s public sector business development director, Graeme Stewart, has welcomed this announcement but has expressed concern about what the brief will be for the newly appointed role, and also, where the £650 million of funding, allocated to push research and defence forward, will be targeted.

“Presenting this kind of role to someone who is not a professional in information security could have potential positives and negatives,” commented Stewart. “If the appointed person has no experience in this field, they will have the ability to apply a pragmatic approach to the task at hand, that is not coloured by dogma or industry hype. They’ll also be able to draw upon previous experience from the military, such as the handling of mission critical information, and they will understand the cost of poor information handling and the real cost of system (both procedural and IT) failure. The potential negative, however, is that information and cyber security is a highly specialised topic requiring a great deal of technical knowledge and understanding. It’s a complicated subject to get to grips with.”

“I also have concerns about how the money set aside for cyber security is going to be handled, and where the money will be targeted,” continued Stewart. “It is essential that spending is distributed across the entire Government network – from Central Government to local councils and police forces – as outlying systems on any network become the easiest point of entry. In order to be successful in this new role, the new General needs to ensure he focuses on the wider requirements of Cyber defence, and spend money for the maximum impact across Government.”

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