The Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has declared a £15 million package to support Commonwealth countries to defend themselves from cyber-attacks.
Ms Truss, who is the Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk, hopes to boost Commonwealth nations’ resilience to rising threats in cyberspace, empowering the bloc to defend themselves.
The former international trade minister told leaders that the invasion of Ukraine in February had served as a stark reminder that “our sovereignty and security is increasingly under threat around the world and in cyberspace”.
Cyber is among the top security challenges that Commonwealth countries face today, with 87% of organisations having experienced an attempt to exploit their existing vulnerabilities in cyberspace.
The Foreign Secretary was due to tell Foreign Ministers declared at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda that an expanded Commonwealth, united behind its shared values is a vital counterweight to the growing threat of malign activity.
She believes that alongside other networks such as the G7 and NATO, the Commonwealth can and should play a vital role in challenging autocratic regimes and advancing freedoms around the world.
The UK’s renewed package of cyber support for the Commonwealth will involve sharing cyber deterrence expertise, building insights into understanding threats, assessing capability and governing effectively to enable agile responses.
And it will support the voices of smaller countries to ensure that we are, collectively, able to stand up as a powerful voice behind our shared values of sovereignty, democracy and good governance in cyber space.
He speech said: “In an increasingly geopolitical world, the Commonwealth is a vital and expanding alliance united behind values of democracy, human rights and sovereignty.
“The Commonwealth are collectively taking action to bolster our resilience and security, including in cyberspace, to stand up against autocratic regimes that challenge our freedoms.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a stark warning to us all that our sovereignty and security is increasingly under threat around the world and in cyberspace.
“The new UK funding will maximise the influence of every Commonwealth member state in vital international negotiations on cyber governance.
“It will support the voices of smaller countries to ensure that we are, collectively, able to stand up as a powerful voice behind our shared values of sovereignty, democracy and good governance in cyber space.”
Tailored projects with Commonwealth countries will work to empower smaller states and a Commonwealth Cyber Governance network will bring together experts from across the organisation, in addition to increasing in-country cyber attaches and UN Women-in-Cyber Fellows.
Collectively, it will make it harder for malign states to meddle in domestic cyber space across the Commonwealth.
The last CHOGM was held in the UK in 2018, with the UK now handing over the chairing role to Rwanda.
Check Point Software’s 2022 Security Report showed that 87% of organizations have experienced an attempted exploit of an already-known, existing vulnerability.
The UK made cyber security and resilience a priority for the whole Commonwealth during its period as Chair-in-Office in the last four years. Since CHOGM 2018, every member state has taken steps to improve their cyber security competence and capability.
A Commonwealth statement in 2020 called for greater coordination on cyber security and the 2018 Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, agreed by all member states, has strengthened an inclusive and rights-based cyberspace that supports economic and social development.
UK funding has helped civil society groups in Belize, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Ghana to engage with national governments and contribute toward national cyber security strategies.
Ransomware has become the most significant cyber threat facing the UK this year, with reports of attacks having more than doubled since 2020.