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Prime Minister's speech on cyberspace

The Prime Minister has given a speech at the London Conference on Cyberspace

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Check against delivery speech transcript:


Good afternoon. It’s great to see such a large and diverse range of experts gathered here to discuss this vital issue. The Foreign Secretary has told me there have been some detailed and productive conversations so far today. Let me say a few things about why this is a priority for me and my government and why this conference matters.

A force for good

First, we have come together because we passionately believe in the internet as a force for economic, social and political good. The internet has changed the way we change our world. Go to Cairo or Tripoli and you’ll meet people whose lives have been transformed because technology gave them a voice. Go to the poorest parts of Kenya and you’ll find people accessing financial services for the first time via their mobile phones, finally getting a foot-hold in the economy.

And the internet has profoundly changed our economies too. Studies show it can create twice as many jobs as it destroys. It’s estimated that for every 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration, global GDP will increase by an average of 1.3 per cent. So to grow our economies and get our people back to work, we’ve got to push harder than ever for wider access - and that’s what we’re doing in the UK.

Cyber crime

Second, we have come together to tackle cyber crime. This costs the UK an estimated £27 billion a year. Globally, it’s as much $1 trillion. It costs just 69p - about the price of a song on iTunes - to buy someone’s credit card information online. Cyber criminals have their own ‘online shopping websites’ where they can buy and sell stolen credit card details in just the same way you’d buy a book from Amazon.

And threats come not just from criminal gangs. Every day we are seeing attempts on an industrial scale to steal valuable information from individuals and companies. Britain will shortly set out a new approach for better online security, crime prevention and public awareness. But a cross-border problem needs cross-border solutions, which is why the world needs to act together.

Cyber threats

Third, we are here because international cyber security is a real and pressing concern. Let us be frank. Every day we see attempts on an industrial scale to steal government secrets - information of interest to nation states, not just commercial organisations.

Highly sophisticated techniques are being employed. This summer a significant attempt on the Foreign Office system was foiled. These are attacks on our national interest. They are unacceptable. And we will respond to them as robustly as we do any other national security threat.

So Britain has prioritised cyber attacks as a tier one threat - and put £650 million towards improving our cyber defences. And internationally, we’re inviting others to join us in a network wide enough and powerful enough to face this threat down.

Striking the balance

So our task today and in the future is to strike a balance. We cannot leave cyber space wide open to the criminals and terrorists that threaten our security and prosperity.

But at the same time we cannot go the heavy-handed route. Do that and we’ll crush all that’s good about the internet - the free flow of information, the climate of creativity that gives life to new ideas and new movements. Governments must not use cyber security as an excuse for censorship, or to deny their people the opportunities that the internet represents.

The balance we’ve got to strike is between freedom and a free-for-all. Getting there needs everyone in this room to play their part.

Government doesn’t own the internet, or run the internet, or shape the internet. So together, I hope we can set an agenda for the future. Thank you.

Published 1 November 2011