Britain 'under cyber attack' and PR staff must react, say agency chiefs

PR staff will have to reconsider their reliance on social media as they increases their vulnerability, say agency chiefs in the wake of news Britain is 'under cyber attack'.

Under 'cyber attack': Internet security
Under 'cyber attack': Internet security

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday told the Munich Security Conference in Germany that Britain was ‘under attack’ from hostile intelligence agencies, following a criminal virus infecting government computer systems last year as well as attempts to steal data from a UK defence contractor.

Pete Goold, MD of PR, search and social media agency, Punch Communications, said: ‘This type of announcement will make many PROs pause to consider the extent to which their increasing reliance on technology increases their digital vulnerability – and the truth is that while we are all now ever more reliant on third party sites and apps for daily tasks, the PR community is in the hands of those responsible for their security.

 ‘Sadly, it is highly probable that at some point a hacker will work back from a social network or app to find a loophole. The only guarantee of security is to choose not to engage, but then given the relative benefits of using social media and other tools versus the relative security risks - and, assuming that most agencies are up to speed with at least a level of internal security measures and they treating their client and internal information appropriately responsibly - I would argue that this should not be a show stopper.’

Stephanie MacLeod, director at Kaizo PR, added: 'If information is the new currency, then any government is rich picking for the cyber criminal community. Add to this the fact that there is the definite threat of corporate and government espionage and you see that there is no surprise in Hague's claims.

'What is quite  surprising is that governments still don't seem to be able to adequately protect this data and educate public servants not to click on suspicious links. In terms of communication strategy, there is a fine line to be walked between alerting people and businesses of the threat, while not inducing a feeling of fear and a culture of non-participation.

'Adoption of online services is key to the future delivery of government services and PR has to inspire confidence and educate. UK citizens want to feel that business and government is on top of this issue. Unfortunately, as with many stories (especially when it comes to security) it's the bad news that make it on the news pages.'

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