UK lists cybersecurity as top national security concern

The government is calling for a program to address cyberthreats from criminals and countries

The U.K. government has listed cybersecurity as one of its top concerns for the next five years in a strategy paper released on Monday.

The possibility of cyberattacks ranked alongside terrorism, international military crisis, major accidents and natural hazards as the highest priority objective for Britain's coalition government, composed of members of the Conservative and Liberal Democrats parties.

The government is calling for the formation of a "transformative program" to address threats from states, criminals and terrorists. The National Security Strategy paper will set the tone for how the U.K decides to allocate its resources amid growing pressure on the government to cut public spending due to weak economic conditions.

The government cited the possibility of attacks on the U.K. via computer networks and "large scale cybercrime" as a threat to its national security, as use of the Internet is crucial to the nation's economy.

"Cybercrime has been estimated to cost as much as $1 trillion per year globally, with untold human cost," according to the report. "Major British companies are increasingly anxious about the impact of cybercrime on their bottom line and the resilience of the networks upon which commerce relies."

The government, private sector and citizens are under "sustained cyberattack today, from both hostile states and criminals," the report said. "They are stealing our intellectual property, sensitive commercial and government information and even our identities in order to defraud individuals, organizations and the government."

The report mentioned the Stuxnet worm, which some researchers believe is among the most advanced malicious software ever discovered. Experts have postulated that Stuxnet may have been developed by a nation state. It is designed to manipulate SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems made by Siemens.

The U.K. also expects its hosting of the Olympic Games in 2012 as attracting more cyberattacks. China saw 12 million such attacks per day during the 2008 games, the report said.

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