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Government to launch cyber security strategy

Philip Hammond, chancellor of the exchequer, is expected today to announce a boost to the cyber defence grid in what’s being described as a new government cyber security strategy.

Let’s run that past ourselves again. The chancellor of the exchequer, not the secretary of state for defence, is announcing something key to the threat against cyberterrorism and the security of businesses. Presumably this means the £1.9bn price tag for the “new” initiative is the headline fact, as far as the government is concerned.

Is our security policy changing?

The money was announced last year and the speech has been widely previewed. It will reflect plans for extra protection for UK citizens, encouragement for private industry in protecting itself and a call to keep pace with the changing threats. New measures will include the recruitment of over 50 specialists to the National Crime Agency, automated systems to control spam to ordinary people and the creation of a Cyber Security Research Institute to work across universities and other institutions on securing laptops and other appliances. There will also be cash for security-based start-ups.

There remains a nagging doubt about why it is suddenly within the remit of the chancellor to make this announcement rather than, say, Michael Fallon as defence secretary or Amber Rudd at the Home Office. It could be down to logistics of who was available and where – there isn’t always an ulterior motive. It could also be the scale of the finance involved.

Hopefully it’s actually about taking awareness of cyber security outside the defence realm and putting it at the heart of government. A possible subtext of getting the chancellor rather than anyone else to handle this announcement is that it’s at the heart of our government, as much a part of our daily lives as the cash we carry in our pockets. If that message starts to hit home and people take it more seriously because it’s not just a defence thing, it could prove a shrewd choice.

P. S. A week or so ago this service looked into how the Internet of Things was affecting our privacy˚. In his speech today, the chancellor will confirm that the proliferation of devices is having an effect on our privacy. Glad you caught up, Phil!