World ‘likely to get more dangerous’ over next five years, says Boris Johnson’s national security adviser

Michael Gove says ‘more time and care and thought’ will be invested in UK’s cyber-security

Adam Forrest
Monday 05 July 2021 19:17
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Today's daily politics briefing

Boris Johnson’s national security adviser has said the world is “likely” to become a more dangerous place over the next five years.

Sir Stephen Lovegrove – chief adviser to the prime minister on security issues – highlighted the growing risks from hostile foreign powers and cyberattacks when he appeared before MPs on Monday.

Asked by Tory MP Tobias Ellwood if the world would become more dangerous over the next five years, Sir Stephen replied: “Many of the developments we’re seeing at the moment tend [to be] on the downside.”

The national security adviser added: “So I would say it’s likely to be more dangerous.”

His comments come as US indicated that it believes Russian hackers were responsible for Friday’s “colossal” ransomware attack which hit hundreds of businesses across America and around the world.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told MPs that the risk of cyber-attacks “has grown significantly in the course of the last 10 years” – promising the government would be “investing more time and care and thought in cyber-security”.

Grilled by MPs on the National Security Strategy Committee, Mr Gove admitted the UK and its allies were “vulnerable” to cyber-attacks from “hostile states and other bad actors – whether terrorists organisations or anarchist or other groups”.

Mr Gove claimed the UK had already developed “formidable capacity” to deal with such attacks, but said the government was trying to boost its cyber capabilities by training up a “cadre” of skilled technicians.

Asked whether the government should increase its spending on defence and security, Sir Stephen said he did not see the picture changing significantly for the Ministry of Defence (MoD), compared to last year’s budget settlement.

“Every single department in the whole of government would like more money,” he said. “Ultimately national priorities are for the prime minister and government to set.”

Mr Gove said: “There are aspects of our national security which do not fall with our defence budget. With cyber threats, there are things that we should be doing in everything from our universities to way we tailor our apprenticeships.”

On Monday more details emerged on how a Russia-linked criminal gang launched the single biggest global ransomware attack yet, having targeted software from Kaseya, a Miami-based supplier.

An affiliate of the notorious REvil gang infected thousands of victims in at least 17 countries on Friday, largely through firms that remotely manage IT for multiple customers, according to cybersecurity researchers.

Us president Joe Biden suggested at the weekend that the US would respond if it was determined that the Kremlin is at all involved.

Less than a month ago, Mr Biden pressed Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop giving safe haven to REvil and other ransomware gangs whose unrelenting attacks the US deems a national security threat.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked if Russia was aware of the attack or had looked into it. He said it had not yet investigated, but suggested it could be discussed by the US and Russia in consultations on cybersecurity issues.

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