Director GCHQ Jeremy Fleming delivers Vincent Briscoe Annual Security Lecture centred on findings of The Integrated Review.
Earlier this month we considered the UK Government’s Integrated Review and its significance not just to the Cyber Security industry but the UK’s Science and Technology sector. Today, GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming emphasises the importance of the Integrated Review and its recommendations in the Vincent Briscoe Annual Security Lecture, arguing that developing domestic technological capability is vital to ensuring the security and sovereignty of the UK, as well as economic growth.
Speaking to BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera ahead of the lecture, Mr Fleming warned that technology essential to the UK is under threat from hostile states leaving the West faced with a ‘moment of reckoning’. The Integrated Review reinforces the UK’s commitment to investment in UK-based Science and Technology and Mr Fleming explains that without such investment we risk implementing technology produced and controlled by other states ‘in a way in which we can’t assure its security’.
The most pertinent example of this threat is still fresh in many minds; the use of Huawei technology in the UK rollout of 5G. A lack of UK based capability in 5G forced the Government to look abroad for the delivery of the new infrastructure in an attempt to avoid potentially costly delays to the digital transformation. Addressing the 5G debate, Mr Fleming explains that ‘a decade ago when western nations decided they were not going to invest in the underpinning infrastructures which powered 5G and the result was we just didn’t have the choices’.
Lessons learnt from the 5G rollout advocate for early investment in technology to provide choice and security assurances in future digital transformations. A forthcoming threat considered by Mr Fleming is the rise of smart cities in which data privacy and anonymisation could present a significant challenge. He explains ‘if we don’t have the choice of technology available, if we are not able to assure them, if the sources of those technologies are all from one place, if we are unsure about the values that have underpinned those technologies then we could face a different future and we’d certainly face some very difficult choices.’
Reliance acsn advisory board member John Noble CBE shares his thoughts on the situation:
“Jeremy Fleming’s comments reinforce the Integrated Review’s message that we need to think strategically about technology. Our adversaries plan and invest for the long-term and so must we. Fortunately, the U.K. Government realised the importance of cyber security for our digital economy and in 2016 invested £1.9Bn in a cyber strategy and created the NCSC. As one of the founding Directors at the NCSC, I saw the importance of the U.K.‘s strategic approach to cyber and the value that GCHQ’s immensely talented technology workforce could bring.
As Jeremy now highlights, we need to broaden our strategic approach to Science and Technology. We cannot assure products that are built by countries who are potentially hostile to us. Having a strong and robust technology capability is now a fundamental part of our national security. Realising that and investing strategically is really important for the future prosperity of the U.K. and our international partners. This is also great news for those working and investing in U.K. technology companies. What they do has never mattered more.”
Jeremy Fleming’s assessment of the threat posed to UK autonomy is a startling one and indicates that concerns raised over 5G are just the start of a technological race for the control of our data, infrastructure, information security and ultimately sovereignty. Developing such a domestic capability requires an industrial strategy and we look forward to seeing the implementation of the vision and strategy the government has set out.