Hybrid and Cyber-enabled Threats: Covid-19

Defence – in the House of Commons on 21st September 2020.

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Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

What recent assessment he has made of the UK’s ability to tackle (a) hybrid and (b) cyber-enabled threats in the context of the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

The MOD is developing protective measures to rebut, contest and respond to foreign hostile state activity against UK interests at home and abroad. We continue to work with others in Her Majesty’s Government, including the National Cyber Security Centre, to ensure a fused approach. We take the threat seriously, as demonstrated by the £1.9 billion of cyber spending announced alongside the national cyber security strategy.

Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

A second wave of coronavirus could be accompanied by a second wave of covid-19 disinformation, which, if not properly dealt with, could lead to an impact on the uptake in vaccine and ultimately endanger life. What steps are the Government taking to improve the UK’s preparedness against further disinformation and are they co-operating with online platforms to curb the distribution of this material in such circumstances?

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

The Government take disinformation incredibly seriously; that is to say that we focus on disinformation, not misinformation. Disinformation is deliberately laid, often by hostile states, to subvert us or undermine our policy. It is, however, a difficult subject to deal with given how it often uses its agents to deliver that into the mainstream, or indeed through the deep web and into the surface web. That is a challenge; it is not easy for either local government or national Government, and I am sure that the Scottish Government find that similarly challenging. Where we find there to be disinformation, we will of course use all measures that we can to ensure that it is disrupted or that it is pointed out to the audience that it is disinformation. However, I must be very clear that it is not for us to take a view on mainstream media, or on any other type of media’s slant on Government policy. That is the freedom of the press that we enjoy and we are here to protect.