Western nations are unlikely to have a role in shaping critical technologies, such as cybersecurity, unless significant action is taken, warned British intelligence agency GCHQ chief Jeremy Fleming. Companies and governments in the West, he said, are at a crossroads, and will lose the race unless steps are taken to ensure that such cyber security technologies and practices are not defined and controlled by nations like China. Although the UK is currently a big player in the digital world, this is also something that may not remain so.
The director of GCHQ, who has held the post since 2017, warned in a speech that this is a time that the UK needs to decide whether it will continue to evolve and compete with opponents, or give up control. He also warned that the UK should develop “sovereign technologies” while increasing investment in areas such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI)
His comments come amid growing concerns that countries like China are overtaking nations like the United Kingdom and the United States in terms of influence and technological power. Fleming also pointed to an explosion of state-sponsored hacker incident reports, with these operations becoming much more sophisticated. Recent examples include violations of the SolarWinds Orion Platform linked to Russia, as well as attacks by the Microsoft Exchange Server, which are believed to be perpetrated by Chinese-backed groups.
“Cybersecurity is an increasingly strategic issue that needs a nationwide approach. The rules are changing in ways not always controlled by the government, ”said Fleming. “And without action, it becomes increasingly clear that the key technologies that we will count on for our future prosperity and security will not be shaped and controlled by the West. We are now in a moment of reckoning ”. He also commented on the expansion of smart city technologies, suggesting that there needs to be a coordinated approach to building such systems in the UK, which takes into account both innovation and privacy. If done right, it represents a “fantastic opportunity” to increase the efficiency and quality of public services.
“If we don’t control the technology,” he warned, “if we don’t understand the security needed to implement it effectively, we will end up with a technology environment or ecosystem where the data is not just used for browsing, but can be used to track us ”. He emphasized that in smart cities and other areas, such as 5G infrastructure, the UK needs to guarantee a diversity of suppliers. This was a coded reference to an over-reliance on previous network technologies developed by Huawei.
In November last year, the British government ordered telecommunications providers to stop installing Huawei equipment on 5G networks as of September 2021. Companies also have a 2027 deadline to remove Huawei components that have already been installed in 5G networks.
With international news agencies
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