5G and security: The dual telecoms challenges facing the new UK government

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As the newly elected Labour government takes office in the UK after 14 years of Conservative rule, industry leaders are calling for urgent action on cybersecurity and digital infrastructure.

The recent high-profile cyberattacks on critical organisations like the NHS and MoD have exposed significant vulnerabilities in the UK’s digital defences, prompting experts to demand a more robust approach to cybersecurity and accelerated 5G rollout.

Mark Coates, VP EMEA at Gigamon, emphasises the need for immediate action: “The new government carries with it the election promise of ‘change’. With recent high-profile attacks on the NHS and MoD highlighting critical gaps in national security, the new leaders must play their part in ensuring that cybersecurity is a boardroom priority in all organisations with accountable outcomes, given that the UK is at high risk of a ‘catastrophic ransomware attack’.”

Coates points out that current cybersecurity efforts have remained stagnant despite rising threats, with 43 legacy systems at critical risk level this year alone. He calls for more comprehensive legislation to hold businesses accountable for improving the UK’s cyber preparedness and advocates for proactive strategies, secure-by-design principles, and enhanced visibility into organisational data flows, including encrypted information.

Al Lakhani, CEO of IDEE, expresses concern over the lack of attention given to cybersecurity during the election campaign: “For all the election noise, cyber security was absent. In a way this is understandable; there are many other social and economic issues to focus on when trying to woo voters. But as the dust settles on this election and a new party comes to power, continuing to overlook cyber security would be a grave mistake.”

Lakhani highlights recent cyberattacks on the electoral commission, NHS hospitals, and numerous UK businesses, questioning how many more incidents are needed before decisive action is taken.

“The electoral commission: hacked. NHS hospitals: hacked. Countless UK businesses: hacked. How many attacks are too many? With Labour coming into power for the first time in 14 years, a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the UK’s cyber defences is urgently needed,” states Lakhani.

Lakhani urges the new government to develop a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the UK’s cyber defences, drawing comparisons to the EU’s implementation of the NIS2 directive.

Both Coates and Lakhani stress the importance of modernising cybersecurity practices. Lakhani specifically calls for a “radical shift away from outdated security methods and 1st generation MFA” towards advanced solutions like “state-of-the-art, same device MFA 2.0” to combat phishing and password-based attacks effectively.

While cybersecurity takes centre stage in the digital agenda, the rollout of 5G infrastructure remains a crucial concern for the telecoms industry.

Robert Finnegan, CEO of Three UK, welcomes the new government’s recognition of 5G connectivity as a driver of economic growth. However, he notes that “The UK’s connectivity is way behind where it needs to be.”

Finnegan expresses optimism about working with the new administration to address the connectivity gap, highlighting the potential impact of the Vodafone and Three merger.

“The merger of Vodafone and Three enables us to invest £11bn in a dedicated 5G network that would give a huge boost to companies and individuals across the country,” said Finnegan.

As the Labour government settles into power, it faces the dual challenge of bolstering the nation’s cybersecurity defences and accelerating the deployment of cutting-edge 5G infrastructure. The coming months will be critical in determining whether the new government can effectively address these pressing issues.

(Photo by Marcin Nowak)

See also: Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 extend network sharing

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