In this blog post, Michael House takes a look at the stand out themes from the Westminster eForum Keynote Seminar on Cyber-Security in the UK held in London on 18th May.

Cyber-security is a mainstream issue. If that wasn’t apparent before last Friday, then it certainly was by Monday morning.

The WannaCry attack that brought the NHS to its knees and has affected scores of businesses across dozens of countries has meant that even your nan is talking about ransomware, the need for patching and Dorset-based white hat hackers.

Attending the Westminster eForum on the state of cyber security in the UK this morning, it was unsurprising that the weekend’s incident was the topic on everyone’s lips. It made a debate that I was very much looking forward to already all the more interesting.

Education was one of the key themes. For too long, it was said, cyber-security has been seen as a complex topic, best dealt with by IT experts. It is highly important – for the ongoing safety of the entire economy – that every last employee at every business (small or large), university, hospital and government department, is well briefed and on the lookout for potential cyber threats. We need a complete cultural shift change, Bryan Hurcombe, the Head of Deloitte’s Cyber Security Practice said, in order to really hammer home how much of a major issue this is.

There was also an interesting remark made by James Hatch, the Director of Cyber Services at BAE Systems, in regards to just how educated digital natives are. For many, it’s a given that those who never knew a world without the internet, are less inclined to be security savvy. Not so, Hatch says, highlighting the fact, that many young people, while more digitally savvy have very little concept of the dangers that lurk online. It was a strong reminder that as new generations enter an ever-more digital workforce, education must remain solid.

The final point that really hit home was around the need for collaboration. A number of panellists mentioned the importance of sharing information openly in order to beat the bad guys. It’s a practice, I learnt, that is increasingly common in the financial services sector, but many CEOs in other sectors still cannot understand its importance. After all, why would you give any information to your rivals? Well, with an ever-rising attack level, it’s critical that everyone pulls together to ensure we have the collective knowledge to stop cyber criminals in their tracks. A shift to the point where information sharing is a natural process is a key part of that.

Ultimately, the importance of safeguarding our nation against cyber-criminals has never been at a more important stage. Attending such a well-represented event like this, was massively re-assuring and a reminder of the fantastic talent we have access to here in the UK. Furthermore, the fact that so many people – many who you would not find at traditional cyber-tech conferences – were in attendance (I sat next to a representative from a publishing house) shows that ultimately the issue is increasingly being recognised as one that affects everybody.

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