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On Wednesday 22nd May, The Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum convened industry experts and parliamentarians in the Home Room of the House of Lords to discuss the cyber security landscape and how Government and industry can collaborate to develop security solutions.

The event identified the most pressing cyber threats to the UK, including state and non-state actors’ methods and identified solutions, with AI and international cooperation at the forefront of discussion. Attendees discussed the best ways the Government could strengthen national cyber security, focusing on the UK’s recent legislation including the Online Safety Act.

Speakers included:

  • Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, PICTFOR Co-Chair & Event Chair
  • Lord Clement-Jones CBE, PICTOR Officer & Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for AI
  • Adam Hadley, Founder and Executive Director of Tech Against Terrorism
  • Raya Tsolova, Programme Manager, techUK

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP began the event by thanking attendees for coming, before giving an overview of the current cyber landscape. She noted that technology is proceeding at a rate which the UK has never seen, with algorithms dictating what we see and traditionally in-person functions now taking place online, as well as the security ramifications for this. She spoke about her role overseeing the Online Safety Bill and the difficulty of balancing regulation with the need for new technology as well as the ethical dilemmas that come with it.

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP then introduced Lord Clement-Jones CBE, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for AI.

Lord Clement-Jones began by speaking to the importance of AI, highlighting the connection between AI and cyber security, as well as technologies like quantum. He spoke about cyber in a democratic context, noting that around the world there will be four billion people voting in elections this year, and disinformation and deepfakes will become increasingly important. He said the UK has been quick to respond, with the establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre, the Defending Democracy Task Force and the new AI Safety Institute. He emphasised that it is not just governments who are targeted by anti-Democratic forces but journalists, commentators and political opponents too. He identified the issue of inadequate data literacy in many communities that renders people vulnerable to theft of data. There is good news however, with the increase in use of AI and quantum protection and assistance in identifying security breaches. He finished his remarks with a call for new legislation targeting misinformation and deepfakes.

The Chair then introduced Adam Hadley, Founder and Executive Director of Tech Against Terrorism.

Adam Hadley started by providing attendees with an introduction to Tech Against Terrorism. The initiative is United Nations-backed and majority UK and US Government funded, with the purpose of breaking down barriers between the public and private sector and promoting co-operation. Through working with large platforms and governments, it aims to understand how terrorists use the internet, and works to build capacity on platforms to respond and develop technology to combat terrorism.

Adam gave a detailed explanation of how terrorists operate online. Having previously conducted much of their operations online at scale with impunity, terrorist groups have been forced to move to smaller platforms following a crackdown by big tech. Terrorist groups now mainly use smaller platforms in parallel and often operate their own website to promote their ideology. Adam pointed out that these are surprisingly hard to take down due to a lack of international treaties on the topic. He also posed the question; who would have thought that the Houthis and Al-Qaeda had their own website?

Adam noted that nation states are increasingly weaponizing AI technology as a cyber threat, with capabilities far greater than terrorists, who are usually low-tech in their means. He advocated for cross-harms collaboration across Government to combat this, saying that all too often there are silos of techniques across Government that are not shared. He said Government and industry must be solution oriented, and not assume that because we have regulation and legislation, these issues can be solved without thinking through how to tackle them.

Adam’s final point was a reminder to also focus on the cyber security basics. He said we must ask ourselves, is the main threat to UK cyber security from artificial intelligence or from adversaries exploiting the basics that we should have got right? He pointing to the recent Ministry of Defence hack, which he described as the worst in living memory. He said he is often surprised by how many basics the Government cannot do, often due to an obligation to adhere to privacy legislation. He raised questions of how the Online Safety Act will be implemented, specifically how regulators such as Ofcom will be able to monitor the internet.

The Chair then introduced Raya Tsolova, Programme Manager at tech UK. Raya began with an introduction of her role and the role of techUK, which she described as a trade association for the digital sector in the UK. Raya said the organisation plays a significant role in informing government policy and provides horizon scanning and understanding of emerging technologies. Raya’s role focuses on examining how the UK can exploit emerging technologies to defeat all types of crime, not just cyber, as well as understanding how adversaries use emerging technologies and how we can stay one step ahead.

Raya continued by saying innovation is key to countering the threats posed by adversaries, and acknowledged that the UK is not short of innovation. She listed a range of Government national security initiatives as examples, including ACE, DASA, JSaRC and NSIF. Raya posed the question of how to strike the right balance between in-house capabilities and using outside help, and what the role should be for the tech sector, which by its nature is less transparent.

Raya then outlined techUK’s key areas of focus for exploiting emerging technologies to combat crime. This included combatting knife crime with knife detection technology, helping with bio-metric technology on the border, secure and discreet communications between UK and foreign counterparts and synthetic environments and immersive worlds.

Raya said that cutting edge modern innovation often lies in the private sector in the UK, and smaller businesses have the ability and drive to create things with more engagement between organisations within the Tech sector. She indicated Government and the national security system need to tap into digital skills and engage with industry early on and with the correct requirements in order to fully capture these benefits.

She ended her speech with a call for the traditionally secretive tech sector to adopt more open approaches, which techUK is committed to doing.

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP then opened the floor for questions and comments, where attendees built on the speakers’ themes of AI as a cyber security tool, getting the basics right, and international co-operation.

Many thanks to members for their contributions.

This is not an official publication of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. It has not been approved by either House or its committees. All-Party Parliamentary Groups are informal groups of Members of both Houses with a common interest in particular issues. The views expressed in this report are those of the group.

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