Ciaran Martin’s speech at the NATO Cyber Defence Pledge Conference

The Conference was hosted by the NCSC at its London headquarters on 23 May 2019.

Secretary General, Foreign Secretary, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

My name is Ciaran Martin, the head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre. It is my honour and privilege to welcome you hear this morning. Indeed, welcoming the North Atlantic Council here to our headquarters – in a day focused on something that is crucial to us, the NATO cyber pledge – is one of the proudest moments in the short history of our organisation.

And this opportunity to project UK leadership in a community of friends and allies is also a much needed boost to national prestige at an important moment in our history. I mean, based on current assumptions, the Eurovision Song Contest isn’t coming to London anytime soon.

We are proud of what we have achieved and are achieving here at the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre. In the two and a half years we have been around we have worked hard to counter a culture of defeatism about cyber security and to make focussed, practical interventions to make the UK’s digital homeland more secure.

The transformative technology that is changing all our lives and societies for the better has also brought new vulnerabilities – a digital ecosystem of hundreds of billions of lines of code, complicated hardware and global interdependencies, all designed by and operated by human beings, is going to have mistakes and weaknesses. Those mistakes and weaknesses are going to be exploited by a range of people who do us harm. Allowing those hostile cyber actors to succeed threatens not just our national security but our national wellbeing – our confidence in digital transactions, our economy, our national morale.

But there are things we can and should be doing to improve our security. Here at the NCSC we’ve developed world class techniques to track the most threatening attack groups and tools and techniques to counter them. We have a national programme to protect our critical infrastructure. And we have a range of measures to help make our vulnerable Internet automatically safer – measures to combat things like identity spoofing – and to make it easier for people to use safely and efficiently.

But everything we do is only successful if we are part of something bigger. The NCSC may be a young organisation but we are part of GCHQ, a world-class signals intelligence agency celebrating its centenary. We only succeed at national level through close partnership with our key industries.

And most important of all, we are part of an international community of friends and allies who want to do something to make our digital environment safer. And no alliance is more important to us in this respect than NATO, the most successful military alliance in history.

We strongly support the full implementation of the Cyber Defence Pledge agreed in Warsaw almost 3 years ago.

In Warsaw in 2016 we pledged to ensure that our Alliance is cyber aware, cyber trained, cyber secure and cyber enabled.

We welcome the opportunity to offer NCSC as a platform to share our experience on these important issues, and more, today. Those conversations will continue throughout the day – where many of the NCSC’s top technical experts will be on hand – and of course beyond.

Ciaran Martin, CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), speaks that the NATO Cyber Pledge Conference held at NCSC headquarters in London on 23 May 2019.

We are proud of the extensive threat information we have been able to share with partners in this room. We will continue to share our knowledge, assessment and expertise with NATO and with Allies to better deter and respond to the threat. 

We will continue to invest in capacity building, including alongside and in support of our NATO Allies.

We are ready to explore what concrete steps we can take to further build cyber capacity among Allies.

As the Secretary-General has said, cyber is now a domain of operations. And it is also something our citizens – our families, friends and colleagues – increasingly depend on. It is becoming part of our lives like the food we eat and the air we breathe.

We want it to be a peaceful domain.

That means as an alliance we must act as responsible cyber powers. Cyber space, whilst affording us all huge opportunities, has also given rise to new offensive capabilities. Sometimes they are called viruses. That name is not an accident. These capabilities have the potential not just to affect individual systems and functions but infect the environment more generally, as was the case with WannaCry and NotPetya. That is why as the most successful military alliance in history we must not just defend against these weapons, but also act wisely as a cyber power ourselves: acting proportionately, lawfully, and in accordance with the values we seek to defend.

The new digital environment, the digital economy, our new digital societies, grew up because of the values of freedom, free expression, open economies and open societies that the NATO alliance exists to protect. So today we proudly stand here united in our purpose to defend all our citizens.

To defend peace in cyberspace.

Our Government is fully committed to this mission. As the head of an operational organisation we have clear direction from Ministers to play as effective a role as we can in supporting NATO in securing cyberspace. And it is therefore an honour for me to welcome to the podium, our Foreign Secretary, the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt MP.

You can also read the speeches given by:

Jason Davies

UK based technology professional, with an interest in computer security and telecoms.

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