Page last updated at 02:35 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

UK can cope with cyber attack, says Lords committee

Padlock on keyboard
Cyber-security is a growing concern around the world

The UK is "reasonably well placed" to cope with a large-scale cyber attack, a report by a group of peers has said.

The Lords EU Home Affairs sub-committee said the internet was under constant threat of disruption from the actions of cyber-criminals and hostile states.

But they said Britain was leading the way in cyber-security within the EU.

And they warned that a plan to simulate the shutdown of the entire EU phone network this year was "over ambitious" as many member states were not ready.

The committe heard from experts, including cyber-security minister Lord West who said measures put in place by the surveillance service GCHQ had improved the UK's readiness to prevent cyber-attack.

We believe that the government and the EU should be giving greater attention to how cyber-security could be developed on a global basis
Lords EU committee report

Last year the UK government staged a simulation of a catastrophic nationwide failure of the phone network, codenamed operation White Noise.

Those taking part were asked to deal with a scenario in which all fixed line and mobile operators in the UK "lost the ability to connect calls both within their own networks and between each other's systems" because of an unspecified technical fault by a foreign operator, the committee said.

Among the lessons learned from the exercise was that Britain's privatised phone market "makes establishing priorities for reconnection and co-ordination between the telecoms operators and government following a major incident complex".

Nato co-operation

The government also found that it needed to work with the telecoms industry "to avoid the obvious problem of not being able to manage a communications failure through lack of communications", business minister Stephen Timms said in a letter to the committee.

The committee said an EU-wide version of operation White Noise might prove useful, but it said European Commission plans to hold one by the end of 2010 were "unrealistic".

"Instead, as a first step they should encourage the majority of member states to have carried out national resilience exercises by the end of the year," it said.

It also urged greater co-operation between the EU and Nato, suggesting a simulation exercise could also be carried out with the US.

"We believe that the government and the EU should be giving greater attention to how cyber-security could be developed on a global basis," it said.

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