How does the UK Brexit vote affect cyber security?

Does Brexit pose an additional threat to UK cyber security? Not necessarily, though it raises some practical business and personal considerations.

In principle, Brexit should make no difference to whether a business based in London, Cardiff or Edinburgh is more exposed to cyber threats. Maintaining IT security in the face of cyber threats is a global problem. Britain’s separation from the European Union is unlikely to make this problem worse.

However, from a practical perspective and in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, businesses and individuals need to be on their guard. The rhetoric around the campaign, and the rhetoric from across Europe, could suggest that there is currently a greater risk from ‘hacktivists’.

Facebook posting has gone up a notch – or three. Almost certainly Facebook posts, as well as phishing emails, will latch on to Brexit themes to induce people to ‘click on this link’. The risk of exposing PCs, tablets and networks to attack in this way is significant.

On a personal level, individuals also need to take care with their own posting activity. Facebook is not a temporary medium. Angry posts, triggered by online debates and high-running passions, could leave an indelible stain on someone’s character. 

Mid to long-term issues
Looking further ahead, it will be interesting to see what happens to the cross-Europe IT hosting and cloud industries. Will we see separate British and European versions?

It’s also possible that, in the event of immigration controls, the cyber security industry could suffer from a skills crisis. More training of home-grown talent may be needed if the sector is to have access to the resources it needs. Given the complex nature of cyber security and the evolving threats posed to it, demand for experts in the field is only likely to increase. At the same time, a sustained weak pound could offer the opportunity for increased exports of highly-skilled British cyber security experts, in line with the government’s own cyber security strategy.
Uncertainty is a threat in any industry, tempting businesses to put off investment. Will current uncertainty about the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU and its future trade agreements and border controls deter important investment in cyber security?

This is perhaps the greatest worry in the ‘post vote – pre exit’ era. Additional uncertainty over changes to data protection regulation could also encourage businesses to ‘wait and see’, rather than committing themselves to investment spending. Let’s hope any such delays in cyber security spending don’t prove costly.

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