Government and business should work together to understand cyber threats, expert says

Private and public sector can take advantage of each others' resources

Government and businesses can help each other by sharing resources to understand cyber threats, a security consultant has urged.

The government can use its intelligence resources to explore cyber threats in a way that businesses might not be able to do, said Claire Davies a security consultant who is soon retiring after 22 years' service in the British Forces Intelligence Corp.

"It's not so easy to exploit threats in the business because in business you don't want it to get worse. In the military you might want to expose the threat actor a bit more and learn from them.

"[By working together] they can get a clearer understanding of their threat picture that not only affects government but also business as well," Davies said at a BT Engage IT security conference.

To fully understand the threat picture, chief information security officers (CISOs) also need to be aware of what decisions are being made in the boardroom, as these decisions can create IT security threats.

Davies cited the jailbreaking lawsuit that Sony launched against PlayStation 3 hacker George Hotz, which led to activist group Anonymous attacking the company's websites.

"Security needs a board-level influence. They need to understand business and not be too technical-oriented, perhaps, and move along the same lines of that top table, rather than being too low level all the time," she said, reiterating the findings of a recent Chatham House report.

Linked to this, Davies believes that educating everyone responsible for an organisation's information is crucial to ensure its security. CEOs, not just IT security professionals, need to be included in this education, as it is the CEO, the owner of an asset, who takes the risk, she said.

But CISOs also need to look ahead.

"Intelligence is key to risk management. You can't expect your [security] providers and products to protect your industry. You've got to look forward. To be on the offensive, rather than the defensive," said Davies.

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