The Labour peer, who dealt with the 2005 London terror attacks, intervenes as the Coalition seeks a £162,000-a-year cyber security director to lead a £650 million National Cyber Security Programme.
The Government has said it is now fighting a “continuous battle” against criminals and foreign intelligence agencies whose online threat is growing.
Today, Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who has said the Ministry of Defence is a “prime target” for cyber attacks after revealing it had dealt with more than 1000 “potentially serious” incidents over the past year, is due to make a statement at Westminster about radical changes to Britain’s defence structure.
This, he said yesterday, would involve “moving away from some of the traditional, more muscular forms of military intervention to areas like cyber and electronic warfare where we will have to gear ourselves up for the challenges of the future”.
Lord Reid, chair of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College London, insists a comprehensive strategy, a so-called Cyber Doctrine – the title of a report published by him this week – is needed to fight off the threat.
“The internet pervades every aspect of our lives and is the first man-made environment; as difficult to control as the weather,” said Lord Reid. “We desperately need a doctrine, a set of agile policies that shape the way we approach the challenges,” he told The Herald. “If we get that, we will maximise the opportunities and minimise the dangers but we will never have complete security and control.”
Governments across the globe are taking the threat of cyber attack more seriously, and the Pentagon has reclassified it as an act of war.
Last October, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, cited cyber attack alongside conventional terrorism and a flu pandemic as the key dangers to national security.
Announcing an additional £500m to tackle cyber threats, he made clear the UK needed to protect not only government but also businesses and individuals.
It is now estimated cyber crime costs the UK economy £27 billion a year, with attacks on computers, industrial espionage and industrial theft accounting for £21bn to businesses alone.
The figures come after US detectives arrived in Britain to question Ryan Cleary, 19, who has been charged with five offences of hacking.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is also still considering a request from the US Government to extradite Glasgow-born Gary McKinnon, accused of hacking into 97 American military and Nasa computers.