Huawei-watching cyber security unit gets new chief

Lindy Cameron NCSC.jpg

The UK’s cyber security centre, which has played a leading part in examining the security of Huawei equipment in critical infrastructure, is to get a new head.

Lindy Cameron (pictured) will take over as CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) from Ciaran Martin, who leaves the role at the end of August for an academic role in the University of Oxford. Cameron will take over after a handover period.

She said: “Over the past four years, the NCSC has transformed the UK’s approach to cyber security and set a benchmark for other countries to follow. I am delighted to join the NCSC and relish the opportunity to take this world-leading organisation to the next level.”

She will report to Jeremy Fleming, the director general of GCHQ, one of the UK’s three major intelligence agencies alongside MI5 and MI6.

Fleming said: “She joins at a time when cyber security has never been more essential to the nation’s resilience and prosperity. Lindy’s unique blend of experience in Government, overseas and in security and policy issues make her the ideal leader to take NCSC into the next stage of its delivery.”

One of NCSC’s roles is to oversee the so-called Cell in Banbury, officially the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), which is staffed with security-vetted cyber intelligence professionals but has been funded by Huawei as a cost of doing business in the UK.

The future of the Cell is one of the questions she will have to address, since two weeks ago the UK decided to block all future 5G installations of Huawei equipment after the end of 2020. Existing Huawei 5G equipment must be removed by 2027.

Northern Ireland-born Cameron is not a cyber security specialist or even an IT person. After a history degree she joined management consultancy McKinsey and later joined the civil service, with roles in the Department for International Development as a specialist in Nigeria, Vietnam and the Balkans, and then became head of the same department’s country offices in Iraq (2004-5) and Afghanistan (2006-7).

She has worked in a number of other UK government roles, including in Afghanistan’s Helmand province as head of the provincial reconstruction team.

More recently she was Director General for the Northern Ireland Office from June 2019 – a UK government department that normally has a minimal role. However it was pushed back into the forefront when the province’s own parliament was suspended until January 2020 because of a disagreement between the power-sharing political parties.

Oxford University announced this week that Martin will be taking up an appointment as a professor of practice in public management, based at the Blavatnik School of Government, named after Leonid Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born businessman who is now a US and UK citizen.