Cyber security must be at the top of the UK’s agenda for business, policy and research, according to the Royal Society.

A new report from the national academy of science has highlighted the risks to the digital economy and public trust in digital services if action is not taken.

It said the government, businesses and researchers must work together on an “ambitious programme of research” to innovate and establish clear standards and kitemarks.

It also called for a review of cyber security oversight structures in the UK and a commitment from the government on preserving the robustness of encryption and promoting its use.

“Digital systems are increasingly integrated into our lives, and digital industries in the UK grew 32 per cent faster than the rest of our economy between 2010 and 2014,” said Professor John McCanny, co-chair of the Royal Society working group that authored the report.

“But with technology developing at a spectacular pace, the security that protects us and our data is at times struggling to keep up. We need to maintain public trust in the systems we rely on. That means organisations need to invest more in cyber security, as well as demonstrate how secure they are to earn the trust of users.”

The other co-chair, Professor Andy Hopper, stressed the importance of strong security to protect personal information, and warned of the risks of government-mandated backdoors.

“We are entrusting more and more information about ourselves to digital systems and that is shifting the balance between personal security and national security,” he said.

“Although backdoors into devices and systems can help security services, they also increase the opportunities for criminals to break in. As the stakes for individuals get higher, they may be less likely to accept this trade-off.

“This also means we may want oversight of cyber security to be in the hands of more open and transparent public bodies. The government is already taking welcome steps towards greater openness, but the UK should consider whether it should go further in the future.”

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