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Majority of UK would support government breaking international cybersecurity law

Sep 13, 20234 mins

Survey finds most Brits back breaking cybersecurity law to stop war crimes, terrorists, and human right abuses.

hacker working in secrecy
Credit: Pira25 / Shutterstock

More half of the UK population would be supportive of the UK government and its allies breaking international cybersecurity law, under the right circumstances. What's more, 45% would be supportive of, or engage in, online cybercriminal activity themselves - again, in certain situations. That's according to a survey conducted among 1,000 nationally representative UK respondents by Censuswide, on behalf of International Cyber Expo.

The research found demographic differences in each case. For example, 26% of females claimed they would never support the UK government and its allies breaking international cybersecurity law, compared to 17% of men. Meanwhile, 40% of women asserted they would never be supportive of, or engage in any online cybercriminal activity, compared to 26% of men.

Brits support breaking cybersecurity law to stop war crimes, terrorists, human rights abuse

In total, 53% of those surveyed said they would support the UK government and its allies in breaking international cybersecurity law to:

  • Stop war crimes such as killing or torturing civilians during war (25%)
  • Stop a terrorist organisation (24%)
  • Stop human rights abuses (21%)
  • Stop organised crime (20%)
  • Stop a dictatorship (16%)
  • Uncover breaches of international law (16%)
  • Prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country (15%)
  • Uncover severe environmental impacts (13%)

In April, the UK government disclosed rare details about its offensive cyber capabilities to counter state threats, support military operations, and disrupt cybercrime. The National Cyber Force (NCF), a partnership between GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), shared the principles under which it conducts cyber operations as part of the UK's commitment to international stability and security and illustrating how states can act responsibly in cyberspace.

As for those who admitted they would be supportive of, or engage in, online cybercriminal activity, shared they would do so in the following scenarios:

  • To defend the UK, if threatened by another country (12%)
  • If the activity punishes or stops a company that is having a negative impact on the environment (10%)
  • If it resolves a security vulnerability within an organisation (10%)
  • To right a personal wrong, such as if they have been unfairly fired from a job or have been bullied (10%)
  • To protest human rights abuses (10%)
  • If the activity disrupts an on-going physical war between countries (10%)
  • To get revenge on cybercriminals (9%)
  • If the activity prevents animal cruelty (9%)
  • To watch a TV show or film they don't want to pay for (9%)
  • If the activity stopped a problematic person such as Andrew Tate (9%)
  • To redistribute wealth (6%)
  • To defend religious beliefs (5%)

"While it is encouraging that respondents want to see the UK government and its allies take a firm stand against war crimes, terrorism and human rights abuses, it is concerning that such a high percentage support breaking international law or would engage in criminal activities themselves - particularly among younger people," said Simon Newman, CEO of the Cyber Resilience Centre for London. "Vigilantism is never the answer to deal with these threats, however serious they are and any individual who takes the law into their own hands is likely to face significant consequences."

UK Editor

Michael Hill is the UK editor of CSO Online. He has spent the past five-plus years covering various aspects of the cybersecurity industry, with particular interest in the ever-evolving role of the human-related elements of information security. A keen storyteller with a passion for the publishing process, he enjoys working creatively to produce media that has the biggest possible impact on the audience.

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