Interview with Henry Pearson, UK Cyber Ambassador.
What was once private has burst out into the open. National cyber attacks, and widespread cybercriminal activity, are an almost weekly national news headline nowadays.
In the past month alone, two hospitals - Düsseldorf University Hospital, Germany and Universal Health Services, USA - have been attacked with ransomware, disabling their systems, preventing them from treating patients, and causing a fatality.
The international system has yet to create a digital version of the Geneva Convention, regulating cyberspace to ensure a safer future for us all. But nations are at least starting to partner, and recognise the scale of the challenge ahead.
Britain sees in Singapore a partner to promote peaceful cyber activities. “Singapore and the UK share a like-minded approach to cyber security issues with both countries experiencing exponential growth in technology start-ups combined with innovation and digital transformation in their core industries,” explains Henry Pearson, UK Cyber Ambassador.
Last year, the nations signed a joint statement on building greater security into sensors and other IoT devices, he notes, and “the ASEAN Singapore Cyber Security Centre of Excellence (ASCSE) promises to provide the platform for ever increasing opportunities for collaboration.”
The UK ultimately wants to promote a “Free, Open, Peaceful and Secure cyberspace,” he continues. “We have a shared responsibility to improve our collective cyber security”.
“There are no quick wins,” Pearson warns. “We must work together in good faith, giving ourselves time to find common ground and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to fully participate and have their views heard.”
Nations must also create suitable consequences for bad actors. For instance, there have been numerous allegations that state-supported cyber criminals are behind high profile cyber attacks, such as the recent attacks on the Australian Government and its infrastructure; or the 2018 theft of confidential healthcare records from Singapore.
“It is crucial that we are prepared to impose consequences and ensure States are held accountable for irresponsible and malicious cyber activity,” Pearson says.
A fragmenting world
Unfortunately, cyberspace risks fragmenting into rival jurisdictions, run on different standards and with different levels of freedom. How can we build standards for a fragmenting internet?
Pearson notes that the UK advocates for “interoperability based on open standards, global reach and integrity as well as permissionless innovation to remain a cornerstone of future network development.” Tech must be able to talk.
Yet while the tech world is increasingly divided, such as with President Trump’s decision to seek to remove TikTok from the United States, there is global commitment at least to build a safer internet for children.
Pearson says that this work must continue internationally, and also include industry and charities as well. “We must collaborate on an international level across Government, Industry and the Charity sector as we have seen with the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online.”
It may seem a dark time for cyberspace, but Pearson also has some reasons to be cheerful. “Our increasingly digitalised global economy presents untold opportunity with areas such as IoT and Smart Cities highlighting a wider landscape where we can harness the potential of cyber and technology to boost our economies and improve the lives of our citizens.”
Further, global cyber events like GovWare Focus present the best of the global community that will partner, collaborate and share ideas.
Reason to be cheerful indeed.