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Catastrophic Cyber Risks: Press Briefing Notes

Science Media Centre, London in April 2013

by Dr Sally Leivesley
Managing Director, Newrisk Limited (www.newrisk.com)
Advisor on catastrophic risk to companies and governments
Member of the Register of Security Engineers and Specialists, ICE

Catastrophic Cyber Risks:
Conflicts, crime and mischief are increasingly being played out in cyber space. There are inherent risks both through the growth in interconnectedness and to the controls of systems that store, transfer and develop knowledge through networks of electronic, computer-based and wireless systems.  Most significantly there are vulnerabilities within the language of security (encryption). A foreseeable end game is being played by nation states, organised groups and asymmetric non state entities to breach encryption and this will open systems to manipulation, interrogation and control. 


  1. International governance in the near term would be possible if an institution such as CERN, which was granted observer status to the UN General Assembly in 2012, had a role equivalent to the one played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in nuclear monitoring and global nuclear safety standards.  This would help to establish agreements for e-border management, international standards and oversight and there could be a National Security Council response if the security of states was threatened through cyber space.
  2. A fast track reduction of systemic risk would also be assisted by the formation of an international strategic scientific ‘cyber-hub’ populated by scientists from within national space agencies and academic institutions along with operational scientists from critical national infrastructure industry sectors. A joined-up virtual scientific hub can pool capacity and deliver fast-track systemic risk reduction through innovative strategic solutions, especially conceptual work on stabilisation for when systems become unreliable through any causal pathway.  Research off-line as well as a real-time accessibility for nations to a scientific cyber-hub could accelerate solutions and balance the risk of systems failures in a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on operating in cyber space.
  3. In the long term, a ‘post-encryption society’ is required to compensate for breaches in encryption. This is a challenge for long term academic research into novel systems for security and for a secure means of transmission that would generate stability for systems linked to cyber space. It would also provide the public with communications and personal data that could remain private. The utility of the current system would remain but as a legacy system for non-critical structures, data and communications traffic. 

Footnotes for Clarification:


Sally Leivesley



  • Terror 2017
  • Cyber 2017

New dangers are appearing from terrorism for the UK & other countries after the failed Parsons Green underground rail bombing.  Greater public preparedness is now important on what to do in an imminent emergency whether arising from bombs, knives, car ramming or shootings. Workplace training & exercising will help many commuters & will be transferred by them to their families & importantly will encourage parents to discuss emergency evacuations & procedures with any children who travel unaccompanied to school each day.   Newrisk Limited which is a founder member of The Exercise Group7 LLP, (TEG7) is now part of the team providing 14 bespoke courses to mitigate risk from cyber & terrorism & to develop greater awareness of protection under catastrophic risk events.   The TEG7 team work is built up from former military specialist skills & institutional cyber operations skills (www.teg7.co.uk).

Individuals can be encouraged to make their own personal protection plans to empower themselves for any unlikely emergency from terrorism so that they are quickly able to recognise an incident & protect themselves & people close-by to the best of their ability.  Personal plans may include understanding what may be seen or heard or smelt when in proximity to a threat, what materials in clothing give better durability in certain threat situations & what the timelines are for the best chances for survival & mitigation of injury & shock.  Psychological issues in the aftermath of a high threat incident are also important for awareness & self-help & seeking professional help is possible also in these upsetting situations when there has been a near death experience.

Personal information data loss from 400,000 British citizens has been reported by Equifax alongside 143 million Americans in an incident identified in September.  These large data losses provide the criminal world - as well as nation states that use hackers as proxies for defence & commercial information - with the means to undertake identity theft & to attack individuals & companies in many different ways.  Personal history details remain the same throughout life & passwords are frequently used across different areas of activity so that hacking of this scale inevitably exposes the workplace as well as the individual.

Newrisk Limited as part of the TEG7 (The Exercise Group 7 LLP) training initiative, is providing cyber risk mitigation & catastrophic risk training for companies & governments world-wide.  The TEG7 team work is built up from former military specialist skills & institutional cyber operations skills (www.teg7.co.uk). There are 14 courses designed for cyber & physical security to be managed in an integrated format along with an understanding of the extreme threats which are difficult to recognise but which threaten the sustainability of operations.