Following reports from GCHQ, Britain’s biggest intelligence agency, that cyber attacks on the UK have reached “disturbing” levels, Foreign Secretary William Hague called for a two-day cyberspace summit including representatives from 60 nations to take place in London.
The summit, while also discussing the threat of cyber attacks on an international scale, also addressed the increasing amount of cyber crime that affects individuals, estimated to cost the UK as a whole around £27 billion a year.
In the Prime Minister’s speech at the summit, Mr Cameron claimed that “it costs just 69p – about the price of a song on iTunes – to buy someone’s credit card information online.”
He explained that cyber criminals can buy and sell people’s credit card details at websites in the same way as people buy products from Amazon.
In order to defeat cyber crime, Mr Cameron said: “Britain will shortly set out a new approach for better online security, crime prevention and public awareness.”
The Government is already prioritising international cyber attacks, after it was revealed that a significant number of attacks by criminals and foreign intelligence services had been thwarted by the Ministry of Defence last year, including one against the Foreign Office.
A hefty £650 million has been promised to go towards improving Britain’s cyber defences.
However, in something of a U-turn from their response to the UK riots, the Prime Minister and Mr Hague were in agreement that the internet should not be censored or denied to people in times of unrest.
Mr Hague rejected “the view that government suppression of the Internet, phone networks and social media at times of unrest is acceptable”.
Mr Cameron said: “Governments must not use cyber security as an excuse for censorship, or to deny their people the opportunities that the internet represents.”
The US Vice President Joe Biden agreed that governments should not be able to control how people used the internet. He opposed “an international legal instrument that would lead to exclusive government control over Internet resources, institutions and content and national barriers on the free flow of information online”.
In his speech at the summit, Mr Cameron concluded: “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.”
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