CyberUK 21 Britain is to spend £22m on training African and Indo-Pacific nations to stave off cyber influences from “authoritarian regimes”, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said today.
“I’m very pleased to announce that the UK government will invest £22m in new funding to support cyber capacity building in those vulnerable countries,” said Raab at the CyberUK conference this morning, making his single policy pledge in the speech.
The Foreign Secretary said the money will go towards “national cyber response teams” mostly in Africa, with the stated intent being “to improve cooperation on cyber investigations” into potentially nation state-backed attacks on companies and digital-dependent infrastructure.
“From my perspective, at least from a diplomatic point of view… we’ve got to be agile, we’ve got to work with traditional partners, but also with new partners. Just take ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which I mentioned earlier, that’s a good example,” continued Raab, highlighting Singapore’s Cyber Security Centre of Excellence.
The move builds on the Integrated Defence Review published earlier this year, which promised an expansion of UK cyber-policy amid heavy overuse of the word “cyber”.
“Britain has a real comparative advantage in this space,” boasted Raab, namechecking potential allies as India*, Australia (a member of the Five Eyes espionage alliance), South Korea, South Africa, and Brunei.
Why would countries go for this?
It looks good on the page but the wider world may not be interested in accepting the UK as a moral or intellectual leader on internet matters when China and the US can firehose money and people at diplomatic, policy, and (dare we say it) cyber problems.
Raab was alive to this, saying: “We’ve been at this a while. Ten years ago, the UK government brought together in London more than 60 countries to try and establish the principles for governing behaviour in cyberspace, talking about basic principles, things like universal access to the internet, protecting individual human rights online,” later conceding this was a “good point of departure, but only a point of departure.”
In terms of cyber enemies, the foreign sec named “authoritarian regimes like North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, who use digital tech to sabotage and to steal, or to control and censor,” neatly skirting around the censorship-lite shambles that is Britain’s Online Harms Bill, published today in Parliament for the first time.
Overall the speech didn’t make any big promises, the non-timescale-bound £22m pledge aside. Given the government’s claimed focus on cybersecurity as a major policy, this was unusual.
CyberUK continues for the rest of today. A US government cybersecurity official is due to speak later this afternoon. ®
*India has long been adept at playing Western and Eastern powers off against each other. During the latter part of the Cold War, the Indian Navy was flying British Harrier jump jets and Soviet-made Tupolev long-range bombers at the same time, while its air force was operating MiG-29 fighters (a frontline Soviet type) alongside French-built Mirage 2000s in the late 1980s.