The Big Society struggles on, making its mark yesterday in the unexpected realm of cyber security. In a written ministerial statement on the nation’s efforts to tackle cyber crime, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude announced plans to get the public involved in tackling (online) crime:
‘We are constantly examining new ways to harness and attract the talents of the cyber security specialists that are needed for critical areas of work. To this end, the MOD is taking forward the development of a ‘Cyber Reserve’, allowing the Services to draw on the wider talent and skills of the nation in the cyber field. The exact composition is currently in development and a detailed announcement will follow in 2013.’
The scheme — which appears to have little composition or structure at present — has already been branded by the Telegraph as a ‘digital Dad’s Army’. In theory, utilising the ‘wider talent and skills of the nation’ is exactly what the Big Society is about; bringing in private sector skills and individuals taking on greater responsibility. But much like the wider concept, there are some gaping holes around how this digital army would work. Would these reservists receive a special text message when a cyber attack is underway? Or is it a pre-emptive force? And when the ruthless coding machines have dashed to their nearest WiFi hotspot, what exactly would they do? What would the vetting process be for suitable hackers?
There is a need for constant vigilance on this front, as some some of the figures in Maude’s statement suggest. £82 billion a year comes from internet-related business in the UK and 93 percent of large firms reported suffering a cyber attack last year. According to Maude, these breaches can cost businesses £15,000 to £250,000 depending on the size of the firm.
While GCHQ is beavering away to maintain national cyber defences, the private sector are already developing their own methods to protect their property in a battlefield that mutates every few days. But whether the twenty-first century Dad’s Army is a success depends on to what extent Maude fleshes out the scheme in 2013. Otherwise, it may just turn into another Big Society flop.
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