The National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NICSS) needs a radical overhaul if it is to protect the UK from being thrown into anarchy by cyber-attack, according to Lord Harris of Haringey.
The former chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority warned that the current system for defending the critical national infrastructure limited NICSS to an advisory role, with no authority to requisition systems in time of national crisis.
"At present NICSS is set up to fail and cannot fulfil its remit," said Lord Harris. "As a nation the systems we rely on depend on computer networks and all are vulnerable to serious disruption by electronic attack."
Lord Harris claimed that, since 2002, a total of 71 Ministry of Defence computers have been compromised by outside sources, and over 100 countries now have some form of cyber-attack capability.
A recent example was the British Coast Guard which was taken out of action last year thanks to the Sasser worm.
Lord Harris proposed a rethink after the election in which NICSS would be given new powers to regulate security for the critical national infrastructure. All future funding to such systems must also be dependant on full security compliance.
He also called for greater funding for high-tech police forces, maintaining that companies and the public are calling for tougher action to track down online criminals.
The critical national infrastructure is a network of computers that runs essential systems like pensions and utilities. These are in both private company hands and in government departments.
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