Keynote: Confidence in the digital age

Neil Stansfield, Head of Resilience and Security, National Physical Laboratory

Clare White, Operational Risk & Climate Manager, Hinckley & Rugby Building Society (Chair)

Neil Stansfield began his speech by outlining three worlds: defensive, political and technological, and spoke about their relevance to the building society sector.

Neil defined three technology offsets – the first was ‘New Look’, how technology was used to offset the Soviet Union technology following the end of the Second World War. The second was at the end of the 1970s and it gave the advantage back to the West, offsetting size with technology.

This third technology offset is different, governments are no longer inventing the future. Google invests more in quantum computing than the US Government does and change is being driven by the private sector, driven by commercial investment.

Neil went on to highlight the importance of reliable data - our increasing reliance on technology means the need for resilience in infrastructure to underpin it is vital: reliance sets the need for resilience.

Why does this matter? Neil provided some examples - a 24hr internet outage would cost the UK economy £1.6bn. Losing GPS over the City would mean £5bn losses each day.

Neil pointed out data that was once only accessed by Nation States is now freely available, and he gave an example of how during the Arab Spring, AI was used to monitor social media coming out of the area to attempt to predict behaviours and developments.

Neil then touched on AI and deep fake information. He spoke of the risks of relying on AI and demonstrated these by testing ChatGPT, highlighting how in one example half of the references were completely fake. Asking the same question repeatedly can lead to different answers – business leaders need to consider this risk.

Q&A session

What is the biggest risk of an increasingly digital world?

Neil mentioned three things – the skills of our people – immersed in a digital world, how do we train our people?

Ethics and interactions with customers – how we ensure ethics are right for our customers during digital interactions

Regulation – a UK based company has UK based regulation but a lot of technology is global and therefore international understanding is important.

How is climate change going to affect our ability to be resilient?

Neil believes the biggest issue is data because we struggle to understand it. The risk to national security is immense, tidal impact and a rise in sea levels could have huge impacts on migration and food supplies.

Tips for remaining resilient as businesses and personally?

  1. Skills
  2. Standards
  3. Supply chain

And understanding your role in all of these.

What should the audience take away with them?

Companies didn’t take cyber threats seriously early enough, businesses like yours are underpinned by technology. Do you have a board member who is responsible for understanding new technology? You should have.