He explained that this vision aligns with the UK’s own National Cyber Security Strategy. The British, Dutch and Estonian Governments are implementing partners in this European Union funded project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology.
At the launch event, the High Commissioner commented:
Why is having an open, free, secure and resilient cyberspace an important global issue?
Thirty Years ago, in March 1989 the renowned British engineer Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. As we have discovered, its development alongside that of the internet brought profound transformation to the whole world, giving billions access to knowledge and the exchange of ideas, as well as nurturing innovation and investment.
As with many new technologies in their times, it has brought challenges. If not managed carefully these challenges are ones that could undermine the benefits of cyberspace and pose a serious threat to realising its full potential. According to a report published by tech giant McAffee, the global cost of cybercrime in 2017 was $600 billion, or almost one per cent of global GDP.
With the internet and ICT now well established features of modern life, safety and security in the cyber-sphere are of the highest importance. A cyber-attack by malign actors can disrupt the lives of our citizens by undermining our financial systems and crippling critical national infrastructure on which we all depend.
The WannaCry cyber-attack in May 2017 – which affected 150 countries - showed just how real such cyber threats are. In the UK more than a third of all of the National Health Service Trusts across England came under attack, disrupting systems and putting lives at risk.
And as the British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, outlined recently in his speech ‘Deterrence in the Cyber Age’, recent cyber threats have been designed with the intention of undermining democracy. The implications of this should be profoundly disturbing to democratic states like ours and indeed all across the world. Throughout 2018 British Government exposed a series of reckless cyber-attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sports bodies in multiple nations. In consequence, EU leaders have agreed to create a new sanctions regime to punish malicious action in cyber space.
By its very nature cyber security is a global issue. It is something we all need to care about and take seriously.
What is the UK doing about it?
The UK is a global leader on cyber and the UK is one of the safest places to do business online. This has been achieved through effective action against cybercrime and cyber policies which promote economic growth and the building up of cyber capacity and capabilities. We are keen to share our experience and what we have learned with partners such as Sri Lanka.
Together with our allies we have improved our collective ability to detect those responsible for malicious actions in cyberspace, including election interference. The British Government has a very large programme to protect our national infrastructure and systems from cyber threats. The National Cyber Security Centre is doing excellent work to help safeguard British companies and institutions.
But we all need to do much more, to make it harder for those wanting to inflict damage in cyberspace to do so.
To be effective our approach needs to be multi-faceted. We need to have and implement policies that help and encourage the cyber security industry to develop protective measures. We need to be working with allies on joint strategies and future steps, one that are consistent with domestic and international law. We need to prepare for and deter future attacks. We need to use technology more smartly than the people and states who want to turn it against us.
The UK believes that we are most likely to succeed in preserving a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace, if the international community works closely together to foster networks for cyber cooperation and expertise.
Why does this matter to Sri Lanka?
In my time as High Commissioner I have been delighted to support cooperation on cyber issues between our two countries. Last year we were pleased to share experience with Sri Lanka CERT as Sri Lanka developed its National Information Cyber Security Strategy 2019-2023. Next month we will take pleasure welcoming to the UK a delegation of Sri Lankan officials to our National Cyber Security Centre’s flagship CyberUK conference.
I know from this cooperation that all of these issues matter to Sri Lanka as well as the UK. This country’s future economic prosperity and social well-being will increasingly depend on the openness and security of its cyber networks and the ways in which they link to networks beyond its borders. These issues will likely become more evident as a significant proportion of the next billion users to come online will live in South Asia. It will be important that these users can harness the benefits of cyberspace while safe in the knowledge that they are protected from those who wish them harm or want to exploit them.
Sri Lanka has already shown clear support to this through its national cyber strategy and through signing the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, agreed in London last year. In that Declaration, members of the Commonwealth agreed to support a cyberspace that supports economic and social development and rights online, to build the foundations of an effective national cyber security response, and to promote stability in cyberspace through international cooperation.
For the UK the message is clear: Britain and other democracies need to take a strategic and practical approach to safeguarding the free institutions and economies at the heart of our way of life. The UK believes we will be better placed working together through international cooperation to achieve this. I very much hope that this Cyber Resilience for Development programme will play a valuable part in generating the sorts of ideas and measures needed to enable.