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Labour pledges review of UK cybersecurity defences

By Martyn Landi and Jamie Harris, PA

The Labour Party has pledged to overhaul the country’s cybersecurity with the creation of a co-ordinating minister and a review of the National Cyber Security Centre’s role.

In its 2019 manifesto, the party warned that services such as the NHS, nuclear facilities, transport systems and communications networks are vulnerable to cyberattacks as we become more dependent on digital technology.

Labour has also pledged to enforce a legal duty of care on internet companies to protect children online.

The party said it would introduce a Charter of Digital Rights, which would see tech firms fined should they fail to deal with online abuse.

The policy is in line with the recommendations of a Government white paper on online harms published earlier this year which called for greater regulation of the sector.

The pledge is part of a Labour manifesto which also includes the previously announced measure to bring free, full-fibre broadband to every UK home and business by 2030.

On cybersecurity, if elected, Labour says it will create a co-ordinating minister to oversee cybersecurity issues, with a commitment to regular reviews of cyber-readiness.

It will also review the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to determine whether it should be given greater powers as an auditing body, with the ability to issue private companies and public sector organisations with warnings and designate risk.

“We will also review the structures and roles of the National Crime Agency (NCA), to strengthen the response to all types of economic crime, including cybercrime and fraud, and ensure a modern, technologically advanced police service that has the capacity and skills to combat online crime, supported by a new national strategy on cybercrime and fraud,” the manifesto states.

The pledge comes after the Labour Party fell victim to cyberattacks on its own digital platforms earlier this month, in the form of DDoS attacks – where hackers flood a target’s online platforms with traffic from various sources, causing them to slow or crash.

Labour’s broadband plans will see parts of BT Openreach come under public ownership.

It says it will create the British Broadband public service with two arms: British Digital Infrastructure (BDI) and the British Broadband Service (BBS).

“We will bring the broadband-relevant parts of BT into public ownership, with a jobs guarantee for all workers in existing broadband infrastructure and retail broadband work,” the manifesto says.

“BDI will roll out the remaining 90–92% of the full-fibre network, and acquire necessary access rights to existing assets.

“BBS will co-ordinate the delivery of free broadband in tranches as the full-fibre network is rolled out, beginning with the communities worst served by existing broadband networks.”

Labour says the operating costs of the scheme will be paid for through taxation of large companies, including tech giants.