Tony Blair tells Russian infosec conference that cross-border infosec policies need more gov intervention

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has declared that governments can’t “take 10 years to catch up” with cyber crims – while speaking at an infosec conference organised by Vladimir Putin’s favourite Russian bank.

The former Labour leader told Sberbank’s Cyber Polygon webinar that the speed of tech advances over the past 20 years have left governments floundering to keep pace.

“Technology is moving fast; the criminals exploiting it are also moving fast,” said Blair, who was prime minister between 1997 and 2007. “They’re looking to spot the opportunity and take advantage of weaknesses in the system. One of the things that should happen with this technology revolution is it also should reshape the state, how government operates, the skillset that it has, its interactions both with citizens and with the business sector.”

After leaving elected office, Blair set up a foundation bearing his name which aims to influence governments and political leaders around the world into following his brand of “third way” politics. Similar to the impact of Blair’s most well-known modern predecessor, Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher, the New Labour era of British politics saw lasting and profound changes to the face of society.

Those changes included the influence of the internet on the role that government plays in everyday society, with the infosec implications of that never having enjoyed a high profile. Blair scoffed at people with concerns about the role of the state in everyday online life, saying: “When people worry about the data they shared with governments – most people share enormous amounts of data with technology companies!”

The former PM also called for more infosec-focused regulation of globalised big businesses, telling the Russian conference: “As [concerns over privacy and data-sharing] grows in force, it’s just a statement of the obvious, you need to be able to protect people properly. I’d like to see much more cooperation on this and a much bigger attempt by businesses across national frontiers to get some common principles that they can then put forward to governments so we can regulate it properly.”

He repeated that there is a “common interest” in developing regulatory “solutions” that are “interoperable and are properly policed”.

In keeping with the conference’s cyber theme, Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin said – with a straight face – that online criminality was pressing the Russian authorities “to adapt policies that strengthen digital security of critical activities without undermining the benefits from digital transformation in critical sectors.” Russia features regularly, and heavily, as one of the probable originators of many state-sponsored cyberattacks against western countries.

Herman Gref, Sberbank’s CEO and someone described by the Financial Times as “a longtime Putin confidant” also revealed that so far this year, Russian banks have lost 3.5bn roubles (£39m) to cyberattacks. Sberbank itself had a controlling stake bought out by the Russian state earlier this year. Bizarrely, Putin’s official office published an ”interview “ of Gref by Putin shortly before the deal was sealed in which the Russian president didn’t seem to have much interest in the bank’s tech platform ventures (“Issuance of hunting permits is not among direct functions of a banking institution”). ®

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