The head of the UK spy agency GCHQ, Iain Lobban, has underlined the central importance of protecting the nation against the risk of cyber attacks in a speech at Leeds University that also celebrated the life of Alan Turing.
The speech, delivered in the centenary year of Alan Turing's birth, touched on numerous aspects of his life and work at Bletchley Park during World War Two, praising him for his work helping break the German's Enigma codes.
Lobban added if Turing were working for the government now he would be focused on cyber issues, such is their importance to the future security of the nation.
"Then [during WW2], the challenge was to secure Allied codes and ciphers to prevent the enemy doing to us what we were doing to them," he said.
"Today, securing cyberspace so that the UK and its allies can use it safely to develop e-government and trade and requires the collaboration of experts as diverse both personally and intellectually as any we saw at Bletchley Park."
Lobban stressed that in his role at director of GHCQ he is always seeking to attract the next generation of Turing to the organisation.
"Part of my job is to continue to foster that atmosphere: to attract the very best people and harness their talents, and not allow preconceptions and stereotypes to stifle innovation and agility," he said.
"I want to harness the best talent there is not just so that they can be inventive, but so that they can apply themselves to the big issues of intelligence and security which challenge an organisation which simply has to remain at the cutting edge in order to survive and thrive."
And, as in WW2, Lobban also touted the importance of good working relationships with allies such as Canada and the US in protecting against hostile states.
"State actors then, just as state and non-state actors today, were able to apply pressure and influence simultaneously at different points around the globe," he said.
"Cyber [...] throws into sharp relief the need to work in partnership with other countries which share the UK's values and aims."
Lobban also touched on the appalling treatment suffered by Turing at the hands of the British government after the war due to his homosexuality.
"We can't rewrite the past. We can't wish mid-twentieth century Britain into a different society with different attitudes," he said.
"We can be glad that we live in a more tolerant age. And we should remember that the cost of intolerance towards Alan Turing was his loss to the nation."
Turing received an official apology from former prime minister Gordon Brown over his treatment at the hands of the government, but calls for his sentence to be expunged were unheeded.
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