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How Cyber Power Protects More Than Data

Achieving cyber power requires more than just government action.

Responsible cyber power is increasingly important in a world where the lines between physical and digital territories are blurring. This blending of cyber and physical territories requires new efforts to protect and promote national interests in cyberspace. Only by doing so can we ensure the UK’s security and prosperity.

As outlined in the National Cyber Strategy, the UK’s approach to a responsible and ethical framework for cyber power focuses on key areas worth a closer look. Those include:

  • Developing a resilient cyber ecosystem
  • Investing in people and cyber skills
  • Fostering innovative partnerships
  • Integrating both defensive and offensive capabilities to deter adversaries

Achieving these requires more than just government action; it calls for collaboration across an entire ecosystem. And those systems include:

  • Government (leading on policy development)
  • Industry (contributing its technical and delivery experience)
  • Academia (challenging everyone’s thinking)

Cyber power is not just about asserting dominance, but for fostering a secure and ethical digital environment.

As we look ahead, cyber power plays important roles in key areas of today’s complex geopolitical environments.

#1 Strengthening public-private partnerships 

The first area of focus over the coming 12 months will be ensuring effective collaboration between public and private sectors, on which the path to achieving responsible cyber power hinges. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of sustaining public-private collaboration for national cyber defence, particularly in terms of enabling swift crisis response capabilities. Now, our focus needs to shift towards developing long-term, sustainable cyber defence strategies. These strategies must be robust enough to handle the complexities of today’s geopolitical environment.

To successfully navigate to where we need to be, maintaining a cooperative and innovative stance in the realm of cyber power is crucial. It requires recognition of the complex and dynamic relationship between different sectors.

Each unique business sector brings its own set of motivations, strategic goals and perspectives to the table that can be leveraged in different ways. On the one hand, large tech corporations and small enterprises alike offer a wide range of capabilities and insights that are essential for developing comprehensive cyber defence strategies. For example, large tech firms may provide advanced technological solutions and significant resources, while smaller businesses can offer innovative approaches and agility.

Both these organisations (large and small) can deliver secure and resilient digital technologies and solutions that will be vital to driving long-term responsible cyber power for any nation’s national interests. But only when public and private interests are aligned with a nation’s ambitions.

This is where the government's role becomes pivotal. Only by creating an environment that encourages and facilitates this alignment – such as through regular dialogue with industry leaders to build trust and understanding – can a public-private partnership help build national cyber defences and a meaningful and sustainable relationship between the two.

#2 Protecting elections through information integrity

The second area where cyber power plays out is international influence within the context of global elections in 2024. In a world where digital interference and misinformation are on the rise, using cyber capabilities effectively and leveraging cyber power to protect democratic processes has never been more essential. Ultimately, cyber power can infuse trust in the democratic process.

Cyber power strategies used to protect the integrity of the voting process in upcoming elections are vital. The ability to maintain the integrity of information, such as being able to verify AI-generated content and limit the spread of misinformation, will be a major challenge for some of the world’s biggest and most powerful electorates. At the same time, securing election systems against sophisticated cyber threats will also be increasingly important and difficult.

The key indicator of success will be whether any nation can prevent cyber interference from nefarious external parties. Can they adequately protect the systems involved and strengthen the resilience of their political systems against covert foreign influence?

These efforts will set the tone for how nations can effectively collaborate, innovate and navigate the evolving challenges of cyber in 2024. Looking further ahead, it will shape the future of global cyber governance and protecting national interests in pursuit of responsible cyber power.

(About the author: Nick Beecroft is the International Cybersecurity Lead at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence)

Nick Beecroft International Cybersecurity Lead BAE Systems Digital Intelligence

Nick Beecroft is the International Cybersecurity Lead at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence and based in London, England. 

Nick Beecroft International Cybersecurity Lead BAE Systems Digital Intelligence

Nick Beecroft is the International Cybersecurity Lead at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence and based in London, England. 

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