In 2009 it has been revealed that the UK was subject to almost daily attacks from groups of international hackers, many of whom were either partly or wholly sponsored by foreign states or terrorist organisations with backing from unknown global powers.
In an interview with The Observer, security expert Lord West of Spithead revealed that 300 notable attacks were launched against UK businesses and organisations in 2009, but a far greater number of lower grade attacks were fended off each and every day.
The vast majority of the high level attacks remain unpunished, as the groups that perpetrate them are usually working for intelligence agencies with foreign funding. Tracing the attackers is virtually impossible according to Lord West, who said that the lack of online regulation made clandestine hacks and data theft relatively simple to carry out.
Lord West revealed that data detailing secret designs for aerospace engineering projects and other hugely expensive and sensitive undertakings had been stolen by third party groups. He went on to say that other states would only deny involvement when asked about the thefts, leaving the UK authorities with little to act upon.
Lord West also suggested that the UK had the means to retaliate in the online cold war that appears to be being waged between a number of global entities. He said that although the UK is not currently involved in any kind of counter-attacks, it would certainly be willing to consider the viability of such a strategy if matters continue to worsen.
Heads of industry and leaders in positions of power in the West are beginning to approach the threat of data security with increased attention and gravity. The Office of Cyber Security has been created by the UK government and is aimed at tackling the threat head-on, whilst in the USA President Obama has called upon the services of Howard Schmidt to ensure that America is better prepared for international digital espionage.
The immense cost of data security and protection for businesses has been revealed by various studies and reports, with some believing that central intervention and counter-measures may be necessary to restore the balance.