The UK and France are leading a two-day conference in London where states and companies – including Apple, Microsoft and Google – are discussing how to address the market for malicious tools.
Vendors of intrusion tools will also be represented, though a list of exactly which firms has not been shared.
These tools, like spyware, are used to access people’s devices and steal data – from emails and contacts to live audio and pictures.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) says the commercial cyber intrusion sector doubles in size every 10 years, with thousands of individuals targeted every year.
Although there have been official movements against spyware vendors in the past, including Israel’s NSO Group, the threat continues to grow. Nation states, in particular, have attempted to use these tools to compromise the UK’s national security.
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said, “As the threat from malicious use of cyber tools grows, working with like-minded partners is essential to tackle an issue which does not respect borders.
“I am proud that the UK is building on its existing capabilities and taking action as a world leader on cyber threats and innovation.”
The two-day summit, underway at Lancaster House now, will formalise the Pall Mall Process and set its scope. Measures to improve accountability, transparency and oversight in the sector are all under consideration.
NCSC director of operations, Paul Chichester, called the spread of commercially available intrusion tools “an enduring issue.”
He added, “It’s powerful to see such a broad community come together to discuss how we can make the commercial intrusion sector work better for security and society.
“We need a thriving global cyber security sector to maintain the integrity of our digital society, and by working together to improve oversight and transparency in how this capability is being developed, sold and used, we can reduce the impact of the threat to us all.”
The attendees have committed to meeting again in Paris in 2025.
Both this conference and last year’s AI Safety Summit show that the UK still commands global respect as a voice in the technology sector. It is encouraging to see the government reach out to other nations and work with them, rather than setting out to antagonise our closest allies.
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