Major General Jonathan Shaw, head of the Ministry of Defense’s Cyber security program believes that the greatest cyber security threats come internally, from ‘poor cyber hygiene’ by Britons.
Major-General Shaw was speaking at the 2011 Cyber Security Summit. He believes that poor knowledge on the part of citizens when interacting in cyber space is leaving not just their personal data insecure, but is flowing on through the private supply chain.
"For example, it’s estimated that only 25% of new computer buyers change their passwords from the default. That’s not acceptable."
Graphically illustrating the point, Shaw bizarrely compared the situation to the lag in behavioural change during the 80/90s AIDs epidemic.
"We all knew about HIV by then, but there were still those not wearing condoms. Cyberspace is seeing that same lag."
The worry is that Britons have become complacent about online threats and we don’t do enough individually to protect ourselves.
As seen in Estonia, a serious cyber attack can cripple a country. The country, he says, is in a state of ‘post-attack’ where its citizens are extremely vigilant against threats. The United Kingdom remains in a ‘pre attack’ mentality; our citizens are too complacent.
"It’s important to remember that mass attacks are swamping us daily. We need to change our behaviour to make this threat more manageable. 80% of cyber threats could be identified and nullified with the proper cyber hygiene," he said.
He adds that when discussing the issue with Brett Hollander from Microsoft, Mr Hollander said the real figure was much higher, around 92-95%.
"This is a problem for everybody, not just the IT specialists," Major General Shaw concluded.