back to article Top general warns of cyberspy menace to UK biz

A senior general has said that cyberattacks represent the biggest threat to national security, warning that British firms routinely lose commercially sensitive information to overseas rivals as the result of hacking. Major General Jonathan Shaw, head of the Ministry of Defence’s cybersecurity programme, claims that hacking …


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  1. Pete 2

    Old problem, new look

    Industrial espionage is as old as, well, industry. The fact that a lot of it is now done via the internet instead of the old-fashioned way doesn't make this a brand new threat (or one that could be countered simply by improving internet security). If companies tightened up their electronic systems that would provide some benefit - but isn't it likely that the baddies would just go back to their old ways: bribing employees, blackmailing staff, sneaking in dressed as cleaners or just employing some disaffected brainiacs who carry all the relevant knowledge in their heads?

    Anyhow, stealing other peoples' secrets is a two-way affair. It would surprise no-one to discover that british (or any other country's) firms were also engaging in such pursuits and reaping the benefits of their work, too.

  2. Red Bren
    Big Brother

    With friends like these...

    The threat of industrial espionage not only comes from your enemies, but sometimes from your allies!

    1. zb

      Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

      Sun-tzu Chinese general & military strategist (~400 BC)

  3. Abhorsen

    Maybe people should treat their ideas and businesses like they're valuable for a change.

    "Cyberthreat". Bit of a joke.

    Let's be honest, if people didn't assume that they know enough about computers to secure their own networks, or if a large percentage web-designers/sysadmins weren't just total amateurs who know how to navigate Dreamweaver/Windows Server 200x GUIs respectively, the internet would be a safer place.

    The internet is not like a local supermarket; it is filled with people who will mess with you for the sake of doing so, or for truly malicious reasons.

    If you're aware of this and you don't want to spare money to protect yourself, you don't deserve to have your business succeed anyway.

  4. Roger Stenning

    The Common Sense Approach... to keep R&D suystems isolated from the Internet; if they cannot find it on hacking into the public-facing system, they can't nick it, after all. yes, it's a simple approach, but hells bells, it was engineers who came up with KISS, after all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Easier Said Than Done

      At one point you need to transfer design data into other networks to make a product sellable. Then you need to import crash dumps into the R&D network. And of course the R&D guys want to check their hotmail/gmail/yahoo email accounts - you need a "social PC" for that purpose, if you want to do it properly.

      Also, you will have a hard time to verify there is *not a single* connection to the outside world. R&D folks often know how to set up Network Cards and how to lay a patch cable. Which will be soon forgotten.

      But yes, walling off R&D is the right way of thinking.

    2. Scorchio!!
      Thumb Up

      Re: The Common Sense Approach...

      " to keep R&D suystems isolated from the Internet; if they cannot find it on hacking into the public-facing system, they can't nick it, after all. yes, it's a simple approach, but hells bells, it was engineers who came up with KISS, after all"

      In precisely that way, when I started using Demon Internet 20 years ago their customer data servers were on a private intranet with absolutely no link to the wider internet. Reading about (e.g.) US armed forces being 'hacked' I am always surprised. Not to excuse Msrs McKinnon and Assange's informants, but how the *hell* could this be possible in the first place. There should be no link at all to the 'internet', DARPA heritage or not

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Just some basic education on using the Internet would help. The number of clients who won't even entertain the idea of securing communications and will happily send sensitive commercial accounting and design data back and forth via plain text email is woeful. And talented engineers who should know better are just as culpable as the admin type folk IMHO.

  6. Titus Technophobe

    Note to self ......

    In the event of discovering a top notch revolutionary new design for owt, e.g. wind turbines, don't connect the computer with the top secret blue prints to the Internet.

  7. TimNevins

    Tesla anyone?

    And Alexandra Graham Bell as well.

    What ever happened to Al-CIAda being the top threat everyone?

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      You mean Edison

      and AGBell...

    2. Roger Stenning


      What, did he get a posthumous sex change? There's a first ;) Think you meant "Alexander", anyhow :-D

  8. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Blame the Chinese

    Every time 'industrial espionage' is mentioned, it is nearly always blamed on the Chinese. Whilst I don't doubt they are 'at it', I would have thought that almost everyone else is as well (and we are at them). Trying to scare people with the yellow menace is a regression.

  9. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    There is only one police force?

    If the area needs policing in UK then there is only one police.

    If the area needs defending then there are only three armed forces.

    Caution: 27 billion from one with vested interest in the funding going ahead might turn out to be 2.7 billion that turns out to be 270?

  10. DragonKin37

    It Takes balls to say

    "If the moment you come up with a brilliant new idea, it gets nicked by the Chinese then you can end up with your company going bust,"

    The PLA has his want to introduce him to a new app

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    >hacking cost the UK economy £27bn.

    Seriously how does he know that?

    Even if the trade secrets are exfiled, then you actually need the people on the other side to understand them, implement them and socially organize the production chain around them. And then you need market success. If it comes, it may not come at the disadvantage of the original secret holder AT ALL.

    Guess yet another figure pulled out of the nether regions.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    In other news....

    A survey of British Turkey farmers has found that 100% of them were in favor of extending the Christmas season by 1 month.

    The Chairman of the British Poultry Association said "It'll be a difficult job to grow that many more turkeys but somehow we'll manage".

  13. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    ... or is this yet more of the softening up process so the 'honest citizen' (TM) won't object to some draconian surveillance/ restriction of the internet?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think He Is Right

    After all 27 billion is in the order of 1% of British GDP. There are so many stupid businesspeople, but also engineers who entrust basically all their trade secrets to a GSM phone and plaintext email. In many cases business partners simply expect plaintext emails of highly confidental data, because "we never used cryptography and we never will, it is too complicated".

    Then there are millions of improperly patched corporate PCs in Europe, which often have access to tens of thousands of confidential files on network shares. All that secures these files is a Flash player last patched in 2006, in addition to a Java plugin which has ceased to auto-update for an arcane reason.

    I am sure the Chinese and the Russians are laughing all day about Europe, North America and Japan. The management drones simply don't wan to be bothered with this, because they think of themselves as secret "PC experts" and will certainly resist any strong security measures on their own machines.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    More Exploits - Japan

  16. Anonymous Coward 101


    ...I smell bullshit.

    I wonder about this company in Warrington.

    - How do they know that their turbine blades were nicked?

    - Can they verify that they were actually being illegally manufactured?

    - How do they know they were being sold at a cheaper price?

    I'm just curious. I wonder if the General was likely coming out with stories to scare children. Certainly, the £27bn figure might as well have been pulled from a hat.

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