Head of MI5 warns business to guard against terrorism

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The Independent Online

The head of Britain's security services has called on business to play a greater role in combating the threat of terrorism.

The head of Britain's security services has called on business to play a greater role in combating the threat of terrorism.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, the director general of MI5, told the CBI conference yesterday that she worried about firms becoming complacent about the risk of an attack because there had not been any outrages in the UK on the scale of the 11 September attacks in the United States or the Madrid train bombings.

"My message is to broaden your thinking about security issues. A narrow definition of corporate security including the threats of crime and fraud should be widened to include terrorism and threat of electronic attack."

In the first appearance at a CBI conference by the head of Britain's counter-terrorism agency, Ms Manningham-Buller said: "Be under no illusion. The threat is real and here and affects us all ... The terrorists are inventive, adaptable and patient." She said the best way for businesses to guard against the disruption of attacks was to have a "simple, but effective, business continuity plan" in place which was regularly reviewed and tested. She said many businesses already had sophisticated arrangements in place.

A security specialist with Sun Microsystems, a software company which designs measures to combat "cyber-terrorism", disclosed that in almost a third of companies former employees still had access to internal computer systems. Leslie Stretch, the company's UK managing director, said the key to improving corporate security was identity management.

A CBI survey, released over the weekend, revealed that security concerns were rising up the corporate agenda rapidly, with the integrity of IT networks the biggest worry.

The survey also showed that the activities of animal rights extremists were becoming a growing pre-occupation among businesses. One delegate who ran a construction company, Steve Hinkley of Midas, said that production on one site had been stopped for a week after a protester climbed to the top of a crane, while there were some jobs it refused to get involved in because of the intimidation that rival contractors had experienced.

Superintendent Steve Pearl of Cambridgeshire Police, the head of the recently created National Extremist Tactical Co-ordinating Unit, said the activities of animal rights activists were now presenting a threat to the economic well-being of the economy.