Government cracks down on false coronavirus information online

Specialist units across government are working at pace to combat false and misleading narratives about coronavirus, ensuring the public has the right information to protect themselves and save lives.

The Rapid Response Unit, operating from within the Cabinet Office and No10, is tackling a range of harmful narratives online – from purported ‘experts’ issuing dangerous misinformation to criminal fraudsters running phishing scams.

Up to 70 incidents a week, often false narratives containing multiple misleading claims, are being identified and resolved. The successful ‘Don’t Feed the Beast’ public information campaign will also relaunch next week, to empower people to question what they read online.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. It is vital that this message hits home and that misinformation and disinformation which undermines it is knocked down quickly.

“We’re working with social media companies, and I’ll be pressing them this week for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours which could cost lives.”

When false narratives are identified, the government’s Rapid Response Unit coordinates with departments across Whitehall to deploy the appropriate response. This can include a direct rebuttal on social media, working with platforms to remove harmful content and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources.

The unit is one of the teams feeding into the wider Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, made up of experts from across government and in the tech sector.

The Cell is engaging with social media platforms and with disinformation specialists from civil society and academia, to establish a comprehensive overview of the extent, scope and impact of disinformation related to coronavirus.

The Culture Secretary will be contacting social media companies this week to thank them for their good efforts to date, assess the progress made and discuss what other potential measures can be put in place to ensure accurate, honest information consistently reaches users of their platforms.

Penny Mordaunt, Paymaster General said: “Holding your breath for ten seconds is not a test for coronavirus and gargling water for 15 seconds is not a cure – this is the kind of false advice we have seen coming from sources claiming to be medical experts.

“That is why government communicators are working in tandem with health bodies to promote official medical advice, rebut false narratives and clamp down on criminals seeking to exploit public concern during this pandemic.

“But the public can also help with this effort, so today we implore them to take some simple steps before sharing information online, such as always reading beyond the headline and scrutinising the source.”

The public can help stop the spread of potentially dangerous or false stories circulating online by following official government guidance – the ‘SHARE’ checklist. This includes basic but essential advice such as checking the source of a story and analysing the facts before sharing.

Certain states routinely use disinformation as a policy tool, so the government is also stepping up its efforts to share its assessments on coronavirus disinformation with international partners. Working collaboratively has already helped make the UK safer, providing ourselves and our allies with a better understanding of how different techniques are used as part of malicious information operations – and how to protect against those techniques more effectively.

These measures follow recent advice from the National Cyber Security Centre, which revealed a range of attacks being perpetrated online by cyber criminals seeking to exploit coronavirus earlier this month.

This included guidance on how to spot and deal with suspicious emails related to coronavirus, as well as mitigate and defend against malware and ransomware.

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Dstl pioneers 3D printing technique for use on the front line

A project at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has created a new technique which could offer on-demand, 3D-printed explosives at the front line.

Energetics experts are essential for defence and security; from forensic analysis to the protection of troops from explosive devices. Since recognising this national decline in the energetics sector, the MOD has since invested nearly £10 million, to combat the issue by establishing the Future Energetics Project in 2015. Subsequently, the Future Energetics Project has significantly invested in both people, technologies and equipment to develop this UK capability.The Future Energetics Project has adopted an innovative research path, manned by early-career scientists and engineers, to explore the next ‘big things’ in energetics technologies.

Graduates, Apprentices and more experienced staff on the project are heavily involved in research, explosives trials, novel energetics manufacture, blast modelling, chemical synthesis, thermal characterisation and small-scale hazard testing. This work has a direct impact on how the UK tackles ongoing threats, whilst rapidly building up experience in people for the future.

The Future Energetics Project has a number of aims including the development of new energetic materials, diagnostic methods to validate new materials and processing tasks with the benefit of sustaining the capability for the next generation. One of the most exciting developments is applying additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – to new explosive formulations.

3D printing explosives offers numerous benefits for potential users, including reducing storage and transport costs, and enhanced performance with reproducibility. Charges can be printed on demand, bespoke to requirements, in novel and intricate designs previously impossible to manufacture.

The energetic formulations for 3D printing are manufactured in a LabRAM resonant acoustic mixer, which uses acoustic energy rather than physical blades to mix materials, making it safer and more efficient to use. Many organisations are looking at different stages of 3D printing, but Dstl is the only place in the UK that is working on an end-to-end process of this kind with high explosives.

The 3D printing project is currently in testing stages, mainly focusing printer capabilities and material extrusion to then move on to examining explosive characteristics of a print including utilising charge geometry to create different explosive effects. Understanding what shape has what effect could lead to bespoke printing for individual missions in a warzone, providing an amplification of an effect with less material. As 3D printers give limitless possibilities, this is a real breakaway from traditional explosives.

A spokesperson from Dstl said: “Without investment, the UK capability would die. It’s up to MOD to make sure that doesn’t happen, as industry has limited or no capability in many critical areas.”

DPRTE 2020 Official Event Partner: Dstl

DPRTE 2020 Official Event Partner: Dstl

The funding – which has since grown, following early successes – has led to innovative research and has put the UK on track to ensure there are enough suitably qualified and experienced personnel across all areas.

The spokesperson explained: “Energetics knowledge and experience is vital for the UK to develop the best equipment, platforms and operational assets. We need to know how energetic systems damage or defeat our platforms and how we can counter threats, so we can advise on things like countermeasures, detection, safety, transportation and disposal, all while working with explosives in accordance with legislation. 

“Having this capability also means we can rigorously test and evaluate vehicles and systems against current and emerging threats to ensure they offer the required protection for armed forces. We also need to be able to support the police and counter-terrorism units who deal with explosions and homemade devices, such as the Manchester bombing in 2017.”

The Future Energetics Project has attracted people from a range of backgrounds such as forensic science, mathematics, chemistry, physics, graphic design, engineering and astrophysics. The need to improve UK energetics capability has been recognised by a number of national and international partners, and many activities are now available to develop skills.

Dstl played a critical role in establishing both the Centre of Excellence in Energetic Materials (CoEEM), a virtual centre based at Cranfield University which co-ordinates research and training; and the Sector Skills Strategy Group (SSSG) within the Institute of Explosives Engineers, which provides strategic direction to sustain explosives skills.

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NAO release report on MOD defence capabilities delivery

The National Audit Office (NAO) has released a report examining whether the Ministry of Defence gets the capabilities it requires when it needs them to meet its current and future defence objectives.

The NAO report – ‘Delivering capabilities – delivering what was promised’ revealed that nearly one in three of the MOD’s most significant projects are running behind schedule, which could potentially impact its capacity to undertake key tasks.

The MOD develops and operates military capabilities in order to meet its strategic requirements and objectives. The NAO defines a military capability as ‘not simply a piece of equipment such as a tank. Rather, it is a tank with a trained crew that: can communicate with others on the battlefield; can meet identified threats; and can be properly maintained and repaired during its lifetime.’

 Of the 32 programmes being undertaken by the MOD, the NAO report states that ten of these projects are deemed to be ‘undeliverable’ or require ‘urgent action’ within the agreed timescale.

Five of the projects’ delivery have been classed as ‘probable’ or ‘highly likely’.

It is estimated that the total procurement cost of these programmes is £196.2 billion.

The report expects the average delay to be more than two years late by the time they are declared fully operational.

Another issue raised by the report is programmes being declared ‘fully operational’ before this was conclusively the case.

These badly defined delivery ‘milestones’ have meant the MOD hasn’t been clear about what has actually been achieved. Projects can be declared ‘fully operational’ even if they are not or if testing is incomplete.

This has affected the F-35 joint strike fighter, which has been plagued by technical issues and problems with flight simulators impacting pilot training.

Other programmes hit include the unmanned Watchkeeper aerial drone; the offshore patrol vessel HMS Forth; and the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) Tactical Engagement System.

The issues facing the MoD include equipment being delivered either late or faulty by its suppliers, with nearly a third of the 32 most significant projects reporting serious issues with suppliers. In some cases, poor performance has persisted over a number of years.

The report states that MoD project and delivery teams are under-resourced and lack essential skills, contributing to delays in delivery. Six of the 32 projects face shortfalls of more than 20% in their programme teams.

A shortage of key staff and a reliance on consultancy was also flagged an obstacle to delivery. While the NAO suggest that the MOD also doesn’t have the information it needs to hold teams to account and make strategic decisions.

In response to these challenges, the MoD is introducing a new approach to procurement, designed to speed up delivery, and allow it to flexibly upgrade equipment in response to technological change.

For this to successfully tackle the issues highlighted in the report, the NAO emphasises that key decision makers must have an accurate and current understanding of the level of capability that has been delivered.

Gareth Davies, Head of the NAO, commented: “It is essential that the MoD improves the way it introduces important new defence capabilities into service. This includes ensuring that pressure to be seen to deliver quickly does not lead to it accepting incomplete projects, and making decisions on the basis of incomplete reporting.”

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Dstl publishes new report on the future of urban living

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has published a new report examining global trends in city development and predicting how cities are likely to evolve.

The analysts, from the Defence and Security Analysis Division, looked at a broad range of factors, including the influence of technology (including so-called “smart cities”), climate and demographic changes, economic integration and infrastructure developments.

This work aims to build on the endorsed future vision of the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre’s (DCDC) ‘Future Operating Environment (2035)’ and ‘Global Strategic Trends (2050)’, both of which highlight urbanisation as one of the principal challenges facing Defence in the future.

The document attempts to bridge the gap between these future predictions and our current doctrine which is based on our present understanding of cities.

The output from this report will help the UK military to determine where there are significant challenges on the horizon; therefore allowing them to examine potential options to mitigate or better prepare for them.

Urban warfare, and ‘grey zone’ conflicts, are becoming priority areas for Defence, and Dstl is looking at how Defence can adapt to overcome the challenges that urban terrain not only presents now, but will present in the near future.

The Dstl report states: ‘As the future operating environment is going to be increasingly urbanised, the UK military must consider this environment as a primary driver of capabilities.

‘The military will likely have to change its roles and structure to reflect the growing prominence and changing nature of the urban environment.’

As well as studying the future landscape, Dstl is also leading on a number of projects looking at innovative technology to answer some of the challenges of urban warfare. Working in partnership with industry and with US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand colleagues, prototypes including remote sensing, exoskeletons for soldiers, and mini-drones are being tested. The Future Cities report is helping to shape this experiment so the technologies are being tested against these future challenges.

A Dstl spokesperson said: “This report is vital for our MOD customers to understand the future of cities and how it will impact on their operational requirements and emerging doctrine.”

In the area of Smart Cities, the report predicts: ‘Routine online usage will no longer be confined to computers and phones. Other devices will increasingly be interconnected to one another through the “Internet of Things.” It also looks at environmental factors, such as a rise in pollution levels and rising water inequality, leading to greater sources of conflict.’

The report also states that: ‘Expanding cities may make it impossible to isolate or even by-pass urban areas.’

The report looks at smart cities in the context of the new frontline, and its impact on our troops: ‘Increasing verticality and the “urban canyon” (as well as subterranean) will impose severe constraints on UK Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR), fire and manoeuvre capabilities. Verticality also concentrates the population making them more accessible to both the UK and adversaries posing both opportunities and challenges.’

Changes to how people view authority and are also shifting in cities throughout the world, stating:

‘The different forms of governance that the UK will have to interact with could be extensive, with national, international, city, district, neighbourhood, street and even sections of buildings having their own “legitimate” leaders with varying authorities and, potentially, conflicting roles.’

Work like this highlights the importance of Dstl to UK science for Defence and security. Not only does it respond to customer demands, it also provides thought leadership across the defence and security domains. This report is the second in a series on understanding the future urban operating environment. The first; Urban Adversaries, has already informed the Land Warfare Centre’s urban experiment and has been used at the Infantry Battle School in Brecon.

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Autonomous ground vehicle systems move closer to reality

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has announced the purchase of five totally new autonomous land vehicle systems, bringing the autonomous delivery of vital supplies to the front-line with improved efficiency and reduced risk to life moves another step closer to reality.

Two contracts collectively worth around £5m have been awarded to HORIBA MIRA and QinetiQ to produce a number of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and enabling autonomous systems as part of advancing Ministry of Defence (MOD) Transformation Fund commitments for the British Army.

Project Theseus, the development and operational field experimentation of autonomous logistic resupply systems, was announced by Secretary of State (SofS) for Defence, following the progress made by the Innovative Autonomous ‘Last Mile’ Challenge led by Dstl.

The contracts form part of early de-risking work to increase the MOD’s understanding of the capabilities and limitations of these systems in areas such as mobility, vulnerabilities and safety; enabling the Army to take the project to the next stage, pending a further significant competition for Project Theseus to be launched by DE&S later this year.

Dstl’s Autonomy Lead, Peter Stockel said: “These contracts are a demonstration of the continued commitment to progressing autonomous systems as innovative approaches for developing future Land force logistic capability. Under the Autonomous Last Mile Challenge, we have conducted a number of in-depth trials both in the UK and with our partners in the US. These UGV systems will be used to undertake a series of technical evaluations and user utility assessments with the British Army and other users to rapidly advance MOD’s understanding under the ‘Prototype Warfare’ agenda.”

DPRTE 2020 Official Event Partner: Dstl

DPRTE 2020 Official Event Partner: Dstl

Brigadier Darrell Amison, Head of Capability for Combat Service Support said: “Robotic and Autonomous Systems will provide commanders with more options to support a Land force operating at greater reach, dispersal and higher tempo. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with Dstl, wider Defence, and our strategic and commercial partners as we drive forward this ground-breaking and exciting project.”

Summer 2020 will see the arrival of three all-terrain VIKING 6×6 Unmanned Ground Vehicles, supplied by HORIBA MIRA, which are capable of carrying up to 750kg of supplies to frontline troops using advanced AI-based autonomy with GPS-denied navigation. Two TITAN Unmanned Ground Systems will then arrive through autumn 2020; comprising a tracked system based around a modular mission system software architecture. Experimentation and testing of these differing systems will inform further understanding of the capabilities that these autonomous systems can provide and implications for their integration with the wider defence logistics system.

The vehicles will be used by Dstl to conduct scientific and user trials in collaboration with the Combat Service Support Training and Development Unit (CSS TDU) based in Aldershot, and other British Army units. The work will seek to increase understanding of system potential and limitations to reduce the risks specific to acquisition of the Joint Tactical Autonomous Resupply and Replenishment (JTARR) capability, but will also develop deeper knowledge for the Army’s future employment of more advanced autonomous system capabilities.

Robert Mohacsi, Senior Commercial Manager for Defence Systems at HORIBA MIRA, said: “Autonomous systems present the British Army with game changing capabilities, redefining how we will conduct future operations. Building on more than a decade of experience in deploying autonomous technology into military applications, HORIBA MIRA has applied an agile and fast track approach that will enable the army to field this equipment and meet its critical objectives. We are immensely proud that VIKING, with its market leading capability, has been selected to support this critical programme.”

Speaking on award of the contract, Mike Stewart, Director for Research Experimentation and Innovation for QinetiQ said: “Working to the principles of “Prototype Warfare”, as adopted by the British Army, the Joint Tactical Autonomous Resupply and Replenishment (JTARR) risk-reduction contract is a prime example of how QinetiQ is taking an agile approach to delivering solutions into the hands of the military for evaluation whilst continuing spiralled capability development.”

 

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Establishing a ‘zero trust’ approach to supply chain security

Writing for Defence Online, Rodney Joffe, Senior Vice President, Security CTO and Fellow Neustar and Chairman Neustar International Security Council discusses the importance of supply chain security

In October, international aerospace pioneer, Airbus, was forced to act after being hit by a series of cyber-attacks that targeted its suppliers. Thought to be Chinese state-sponsored, the attacks resulted in hackers gaining access to sensitive supply chain data. The end goal was to infiltrate the entire Airbus network, by pinpointing and compromising vulnerable third-party VPNs – a tactic that had potential to wreak havoc on not only Airbus, but also its multiple providers and customers.

At any given time, the threat of a third party cyber-attack is enough to evoke great concern amongst cyber workers, however, when national security and military documentation is at stake, the situation immediately intensifies. Unfortunately, these risks are not confined to the defence industry alone.

Supply chain security is becoming a leading concern globally, highlighted by recent research from the Neustar International Security Council.  When asked, nine in ten cyber security professionals, operating across a range of sectors, admitted they are worried about their third party suppliers getting hacked. While these worries may be unsurprising given today’s unsettled security landscape, more shocking is the revelation that only 24 percent of respondents admitted to feeling confident with the prevention barriers they have put in place to guard against these types of attacks.

A major reason for these concerns is that effectively securing a supply chain end-to-end is a complex and constantly evolving challenge, made even more complicated by the increasing uptake in digital transformation initiatives and the explosion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. More third parties are connecting to an organisation’s network than ever before, and in turn, threat levels are dramatically rising.

With every new device and network adding endless access points for malicious actors, guarding against supply chain attacks requires adopting a “zero trust” approach, revolving around organisations questioning the security of their whole digital network, including that of the third parties they work with.

An increasing cyberattack surface

The growing risk around supply chain security is not without explanation. As more organisations undergo the process of digital transformation to meet the fast pace of change, they are increasingly dependent on third party service providers to support and drive innovation. Whether it be through deploying a cloud platform, automation solution, business intelligence tool, or even by outsourcing work to a manufacturer or software company as opposed to building in-house, the number of providers that businesses work with is only set to rise.

While relying on third parties is key for improving agility and streamlining processes, it also increases the number of digital links to an organisation, which in turn significantly increases the potential for risk. What’s more, the continuous explosion of the IoT poses similar questions around supply chain security. In most cases, these IoT devices have been built by third party manufacturers meaning that the companies actually using them do not have the knowledge of how they have been created or what security measures they have embedded into them.

As a result of this expanded attack surface, malicious actors are now finding alternative ways to penetrate networks. And, as demonstrated in the case of Airbus, third party access points are seen as a weak link for launching attacks.

Adopting a “zero trust” approach

To ensure a safe and secure supply chain, businesses must establish a “zero trust” approach with their providers. This concept is based on the fundamental realisation that there is no such thing as perfect security. Ultimately, an organisation could do everything right when it comes to cybersecurity – by deploying the correct protocols and tools for example – but they are only as secure as their third party suppliers.

“Zero trust” requires security and procurement teams to conduct a thorough risk assessment of their organisation’s supply chain from the outset. Its vitally important that this method is applied to every vendor connecting to the network, from service providers to the electronic devices used within the office including laptops and smart systems.

The importance of standards

During the auditing process, security teams should be making informed decisions based on tangible evidence before bringing an organisation into the ecosystem. This goes beyond a having an initial conversation with a potential supplier. It means ensuring that they closely follow an industry best practice cybersecurity checklist – and that this checklist is validated and authenticated. With this, companies need to pay close attention to industry accreditations and standards and verify that the supplier is adhering to these. If a vendor doesn’t have these standards, then it is more difficult to understand the risks.

Within the defence industry, governments across the globe are doubling down on supply chain security compliance, especially as hackers are now targeting industrial control systems through third parties. For example, in 2017 the US government launched its first cybersecurity executive order stating that all US federal agencies were required to use the National Institute for Cybersecurity and Standards (NIST) cybersecurity framework, and not long after supply chain specifications were added to this framework. What’s more, the US Department of Defence recently announced its cybersecurity enforcement model, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, meaning that the stakes of non-compliance are higher than ever.

While organisations should continuously adopt their own, always-on approach to security, only by conducting rigorous and ongoing assessment can they be confident that their suppliers take security as seriously they do. Ultimately, missed connections or weak links can cause lasting damage to an organisation’s bottom line, leaving no room for error.

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Nuclear deterrent report gives Dreadnought programme update

The Ministry of Defence has released a report detailing the progress made on the Dreadnought submarine programme and other related programmes over the past year.

Currently, four Vanguard Class Ballistic Missile Submarines that are nearing the ends of their service life are providing the UK’s nuclear deterrent capability.

Parliament has voted several times to renew the United Kingdom’s (UK) nuclear deterrent, most recently in 2016 with an overwhelming majority in favour of retaining the capability and replacing the Vanguard Class submarines with four new Dreadnought Class submarines.

The Dreadnought Class submarines will ensure that the UK has a credible, independent and capable nuclear deterrent out to the 2060s and beyond.

The report states that the Dreadnought submarine programme is within budget and the First of Class vessel, HMS Dreadnought, remains on schedule to enter service in the early 2030s.

The programme is currently in Delivery Phase 2 (DP2), which will run until March 2021. This year has seen commitments of around £2.5Bn within DP2, supporting the building of facilities at BAE Systems’ shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness and the next generation of facilities at Rolls-Royce’s Raynesway site in Derby, as well as continued design and construction activity.

In September construction work officially started on Valiant, the second in class of the Dreadnought submarines. The third and fourth boats’ names were also announced this year; Warspite and King George VI.

The report says this investment meant the MOD could extend its commitment to Rolls-Royce Submarines by awarding a contract worth nearly £480 million for the manufacture and delivery of the nuclear propulsion power plants, the Pressurised Water Reactor 3, for all four Dreadnought submarines.

The contract helps support over 600 highly skilled UK jobs at Rolls-Royce Submarines based in Derbyshire, enabling the company to make further commitments into the Dreadnought supply chain of Small and Medium Enterprise companies.

The report touches upon the issues of technical complications with the manufacturing of the missile tubes to be used in the Common Missile Compartment being developed for the UK’s submarines and the United States’ (US) Columbia Class. Problems with welding on some missile tubes for the Dreadnought Class submarines originally identified in 2018, are now being addressed with on-going assessment and repair work. The cost impact of bringing the missile tubes up to the required high standards is currently being assessed.

The cost of the Dreadnought programme is also covered. The total cost of the programme is expected to be £31 billion (including inflation over the lifetime of the programme) with a contingency of £10 billion.

MOD was given access to up to £600 million in Financial Year 2018/19 from the contingency to enable opportunities to be taken to drive out cost and risk later in the Dreadnought programme. MOD has also agreed access to the contingency with Her Majesty’s Treasury, for similar reasons, in Financial Year 2019/20 and 2020/21. To date £7 billion has been spent so far on the concept, assessment, and early delivery phases – £1.5 billion of which was spent in Financial Year 2018/19.

There has been significant investment in infrastructure across the Defence Nuclear Enterprise and looks set to continue.

Construction has startedson the Primary Build Facility at the Barrow-in-Furness shipyard, where fabrication of the submarine reactor pipework and the assembly of the reactor will take place, together with supporting office and welfare facilities.

These new facilities will help facilitate a more efficient submarine production process for the submarine programme. The facilities completed such as the Central Yard Facility and Blast and Paint Facility are working well.

At the Rolls-Royce site in Raynesway, progress is being made with the facilities where construction and testing of the new nuclear reactor cores will take place. The site manufactures reactor cores for our submarine nuclear propulsion plants in support of the Dreadnought Programme.

Work is also progressing at Babcock Marine’s Devonport Dockyard to construct the facilities to defuel decommissioned attack submarines, and activity at HMNB Clyde continues to support submarine operations. There are also projects underway at the Atomic Weapons Establishment’s sites, replacing the current ageing facilities, built to modern standards and delivering the UK’s future capability to manage our nuclear warhead programme.

The report also details the progress of dismantling of the second submarine, RESOLUTION. Now ten months into an 18-month programme of work, more low-level radioactive waste has been removed with an improved performance over the first submarine, SWIFTSURE.

Work continues to be undertaken in conjunction with the US to extend the life of the Trident II D5 missiles this includes updating packages to minimise the risk of system obsolescence in addition to participating in other US led through-life capability programmes. The transition to the Mark 4A warhead is also still in progress.

The MOD is also attempting to gain a greater understanding of the sills needed by the Defence Nuclear Enterprise, including the requirement for Nuclear Suitably Qualified and Experienced Personnel.

The report states that the MOD, Royal Navy and defence industry partners are active members of the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group, which works collaboratively across the defence and civil nuclear sectors to optimise nuclear skills for the future.

The Group published its revised strategic plan in December 2018, aligning its approach against the Deal’s key commitments: Enhanced Skills Leadership; Staying at the Cutting Edge; and, Exciting the Next Generation about Nuclear.

International collaboration with the US continues through the link up on Strategic Weapon System and reactor technologies under the terms of the 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement and Polaris Sales Agreement. This includes research on warhead safety, security, and advanced manufacturing technologies taking place under the UK-US Joint Technology Demonstrator project.

Cooperation is also on going with France under the TEUTATES Treaty, with progress is being made with the hydrodynamic capability to ensure the nuclear weapons remain safe and effective.

More widely, work continues with international partners to reduce the threat from nuclear terrorism and on research to support arms control and verification.

The MOD will make a further report on its progress to Parliament in 2020.

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Global research shows AI will shape 2020 tech but pose potential risks

New ISACA research evaluating the tech landscape of the 2020s has revealed the evolving relationship between artificial intelligence, automation and humans is expected to create promising opportunities in the tech workforce.

ISACA’s Next Decade of Tech: Envisioning the 2020s survey of more than 5,000 business technology professionals shows that respondents are significantly more optimistic about how technology advancements in the new decade will impact their career than they are about how it will impact society as a whole. Fifty-nine percent express optimism for the career ramifications compared to only 40% who are similarly upbeat about the overall societal impact.

From a workplace standpoint, respondents are optimistic that technological sea changes will both position their organizations for success and bolster their paychecks:

·         Nearly 9 in 10 respondents (87%) say AI/machine learning will have a major or moderate impact on enterprises’ profitability.

·         Fifty-eight percent expect that the evolving technology landscape will result in pay increases for tech professionals.

The nature of most technology roles is expected to be recalibrated by AI and increased integration of technology in the workplace, with 93% of respondents expecting an augmented workforce—or people, robots and AI working closely together—to reshape how some or most jobs are performed.

“As we look to the next decade, we need to think about how humans can work with AI and other emerging technologies to take full advantage of the potential for these technologies to improve people’s lives and enable us to work smarter and more efficiently,” said R.V. Raghu, CISA, CRISC, ISACA board director and director of Versatilist Consulting India Pvt. Ltd. “There is so much we can accomplish with humans and AI working together in a well-coordinated fashion, but it will be critically important that technology professionals build in the needed governance and controls for AI to be deployed as intended while limiting the related risks.”

AI’s Potential Pitfalls Counterbalance Enthusiasm

While AI/machine learning is identified as the most important enterprise technology of the next decade, followed by cloud platforms and big data, the potential downside of malicious AI attacks factors into the more pessimistic views for how society could be impacted by tech in the next decade. Only 50% of respondents think it is likely or very likely enterprises will give the ethical ramifications of AI deployments sufficient attention.

Whether through malicious or errant uses of AI, the potential consequences of misuse could be severe, with respondents indicating the highest levels of concern for AI attacks involving:

·         Critical infrastructure (73%)

·         Social engineering (58%)

·         Autonomous weapons (56%)

·         Attacks targeting the healthcare sector (56%)

·         Data poisoning (55%)

Enterprises Not Yet Adequately Prepared

Respondents also are unconvinced that enterprises are adequately preparing themselves for what tech advancements in the next decade will set in motion. Eight in 10 respondents (81%) think enterprises are not yet investing adequately in the people skills needed to navigate the technology changes to come, while 70% think enterprises are underinvesting in the technology needed to retool their organizations for the 2020s.

“The pace of technology-driven change will continue to accelerate, so it’s more important than ever to be always learning,” said ISACA CEO David Samuelson. “Both as individuals and in our companies, we will need new skills and frameworks to be equipped to navigate the inevitable change ahead. As the next decade quickly approaches, our human potential, combined with these advancing technologies, will ensure an era of positive technology breakthroughs, and a future where we all thrive.”

Additional notable findings from ISACA’s research include:

·         Cybersecurity skills gap remains problematic. Only 18% of respondents expect the cyber security skills gap to be mostly or entirely filled in the new decade.

·         Rise of digital natives will change enterprise culture. As digital natives, or those who grew up during the age of mainstream digital technology, increasingly ascend into leadership positions in their organizations, 72% of respondents expect cybersecurity will become a higher priority for enterprises while 56% say enterprises will become more proactive about deploying emerging technologies.

·         Many everyday activities could be phased out. Respondents expect the technological innovations of the new decade to make several routine activities and lifestyle necessities less commonplace, including using cash (75%), physical keys (60%), physical IDs/boarding passes (58%) and going to physical office locations (58%). Respondents are more mixed about whether they will be turning over control of the steering wheel, with 48% saying it is likely or very likely that driverless cars become mainstream in their countries by the end of the decade.

·         Algorithms loom large. IT audit and assurance professionals will need to become adept at assessing algorithms, with 88% of respondents anticipating that doing so will play a significant or moderate part in their job roles.

·         Expectations are mixed for quantum computing. With mounting questions about the future security of internet encryption, just under half of respondents (46%) anticipate quantum computers will be able to carry out tasks that traditional digital computers cannot within five years.

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EDA releases defence data report

The EDA has released a Defence Data Report assessing expenditure, research, investment, and procurement between 2017-2018.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) has released a Defence Data Report covering 2018-2019 presenting key findings and analysis. The first part of the report examines total defence expenditure during that time. It reports that between 2017-2018 total defence expenditure from EDA member states was €223.4billion, 1.4% of GDP and 3.1% of total government spending. There was an increase of 3% in spending from 2017-2018, which the EDA attributes to member states recovering from the financial crash of 2008. Overall, spending decreased between 2008 and 2013 by 11% and has been rising since then. Spending is now in keeping with inflation. Defence expenditure peaked in 2006 at €227.9billion.

The next part of the report looks at investment. Investment also fell after the 2008 financial crisis. Between 2007-2014 spending dropped by 22% across member states. The figure has been increasing since 2014 and reached €44.5billion in 2018. Investment reached its peak of €46.9billion in 2010 and has yet to return to those levels. The number of member states spending 20% or more of their defence budgets investing in research, equipment, and procurement doubled between 2014 and 2018. There has been an overall positive trend since 2014 of member states increasing the portion of their defence budget being spent on investment into equipment and procurement.

The report describes similar trends for defence spending on research and technology. Spending decreased over the mid-2000s to mid-2010s, reducing from €3billion in 2006 down to €1.6billion. In 2018, spending increased for the second year in a row and reached €2.1billion, but still remains below 2008 levels. Member states agreed in 2007 to spend 2% of their defence budget on research and technology. Since then, however, none of these states has allocated more than 1.3%. The total expenditure stood at €2.1billion in 2018, with just four states spending more than 1% of their total budget on research and technology. The combined spending of eight member states accounted for 96% of overall research and technology budgets.

Spending on European collaborative research and development also hit a historic high in 2008. In that year, EDA member states spent €453million on collaborative research projects. This dropped to €153million in 2018, a decrease of 66%. The share of budget going to collaborative research from European defence budgets dropped by a similar percentage. The states dedicated on average 7.3% of total defence research and technology spending to collaborative projects falling below the target of 20%. Even adding the budget of Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR), the figure reaches 9.2%, despite the €40million provided under the programme for European collaborative research.

Collaborative equipment procurement went against the trend and remained steady immediately following the financial crisis, falling in 2013 to €4.7billion. Expenditure dropped again in 2018 to €6.4billion after a few years of slow recovery. Member states agreed to spend 35% of their equipment procurement budget in cooperation with other states, however, most of their budget was spent domestically, with 17.8% connected to a European framework. This peaked in 2011 with 24% of the overall budget spent on collaborative projects and dropped to a record low in 2013 of 15%. Despite the overall drop in spending to €6.4billion in 2018 from the €8billion high in 2009, the relative share of member state’s budgets being spent on international collaboration has increased each year on record.

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The Evolution of Cyber Security – A Path to Transparency

Writing for Defence Online, Leron Zinatullin, Cybersecurity Specialist and Author of The Psychology of Information Security, looks at the evolution of cyber security,

In today’s corporations, information security professionals have a lot to grapple with. While facing major and constantly evolving cyber threats, they must comply with numerous laws and regulations, protect the company’s assets and develop their teams.

Back in the old days, security through obscurity was one of the many defence layers security professionals were employing to protect against attackers. On the surface, it’s hard to argue with such a logic: the less the adversary knows about our systems, the less likely they are to find a vulnerability that can be exploited.

There are some disadvantages to this approach, however. For one, you now need to tightly control the access to the restricted information about the system to limit the possibility of leaking sensitive information about its design. But this also limits the scope for testing: if only a handful of people are allowed to inspect the system for security flaws, the chances of actually discovering them are greatly reduced, especially when it comes to complex systems.

Cryptographers were among the first to realise this. One of Kerckhoff’s principles states that “a cryptosystem should be secure even if everything about the system, except the key, is public knowledge.”

Modern encryption algorithms are not only completely open to the public, exposing them to intense scrutiny, but they have often been developed by the public, as is the case, for example, with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). If a vendor is boasting using its own proprietary encryption algorithm, I suggest giving that vendor a wide berth.

Cryptography aside, transparency can be approached from many different angles: the way we handle personal data, respond to a security incident or work with our partners and suppliers. All of these angles and many more deserve the attention of the security community. We see the shift away from ambiguous privacy policies and the desire to save face by not disclosing a security breach affecting our customers or downplaying its impact.

Communication is a key element in building transparency around security, and that extends to the way we work with people in our organisations. Understanding people is essential when designing security that works, especially if your aim is to move beyond compliance and be an enabler to the business.

Remember, people are employed to do a particular job: unless you’re hired as an information security specialist, your job is not to be an expert in security. In fact, badly designed and implemented security controls can prevent you from doing your job effectively by reducing your productivity.

The aim is not to punish people when they make a mistake, but to build trust. The security team should therefore be there to support people and recognise their challenges rather than police them.

Security mechanisms should be shaped around the day-to-day working lives of employees, and not the other way around. The best way to do this is to engage with employees and to factor in their unique experiences and insights into the design process. The aim should be to correct the misconceptions, misunderstandings and faulty decision-making processes that result in non-compliant behaviour.

People must be given the tools and the means to understand the potential risks associated with their roles, as well as to recognise the benefits of compliant behaviour, both to themselves and to the organisation. Once they are equipped with this information and awareness, they must be trusted to make their own decisions that can serve to mitigate risks at the organisational level.

After all, even Kerckhoff recognised the importance of context and fatigue that security can place on people. One of his lesser known principles states that “given the circumstances in which it is to be used, the system must be easy to use and should not be stressful to use or require its users to know and comply with a long list of rules.” He was a wise man indeed.

To learn more about cyber security and how your business can stay protected from threats, visit the Cyber Essentials Online website.

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