UK must not forget 'soft underbelly' of the public against cyber attack, warns academic


Date: 3rd Feb 2017

A specialist at Buckinghamshire New University says the general public are the 'soft underbelly' of the UK's cyber protection and need to be better educated in online threats.

Phil Wood MBE, who specialises in the study and development of organisational capability in the face of security and related risks, was speaking after the Commons Public Accounts Committee said a skills shortage and 'chaotic' handling of personal data breaches are undermining confidence in the government's ability to protect the UK from cyber attacks.

He said: "Millions of IT users who either work for small and medium enterprises, or for themselves, or even those who just use their smart phones as mobile computers, are the soft underbelly of our cyber protection.

We need a joined-up approach that is not just about business but also about the wider public understanding the possible repercussions of their own interactions and sharing of information.

"The cyber threat exposes us all to the types of risks outlined by the Commons Public Accounts Committee. We need a much more inclusive approach to the development of cyber awareness and protection.

"Whilst there are many educational and training programmes available for those who are dedicated to the cyber profession there is much less general awareness raising for the rest of us.

"Whilst the traditional methods of warfare will always be options for the implementation of foreign policy, the use of information and cyberattacks to destabilise democratic processes and underpinning our infrastructure is known to be effective-and will be increasingly used in what is termed 'hybrid warfare'.

"Whilst soldiers, ships and aircraft may not be used, the effects of disabling or removing large elements of national infrastructure such as power generation and control systems can be achieved more quickly and at less expense using cyber attacks.

"Alongside this, what seems to be an increasingly evident use of misinformation to destabilise and undermine democratic processes is clearly an attractive option; as Sir Michael Fallon terms it 'weaponising misinformation'.

"Our approach at Bucks New University is to design and develop a range of programmes and school linkages through our Cyber Resilience Centre, based at University Campus Aylesbury Vale.

"There we aim to be able to put together everything from very, very straightforward and simple information and data management courses to much more technical specialist training and development.

"We are working on degree apprenticeships to ensure that cyber capabilities can be embedded within organisations, using dedicated cyber specialist employees, and we are also able to provide high-level professional development and awareness for executive and board members to help them to understand the depth and range not only of the technical issues, but also of the more traditional information security issues that face us all."


  • Cyber Security & Computing