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MI5 to open new cyber crime unit in London

A secure Facebook for cyber threats.

The British Security Service, often known as MI5, is planning to open a new unit at an undisclosed location in London to protect the UK companies from the growing threat of cyber attacks from China, Russia and Iran.

Around 12 officers from the Government Communications Headquarters and MI5 will work with business representatives to monitor potential threats. GCHQ, part of the UK’s National Intelligence and Security machinery, will analyse data traffic across the world, while MI5 will examine state-sponsored and terrorist threats to the UK.

Some 160 companies, mostly listed on the FTSE 100 and responsible for managing Britain’s critical national infrastructure, are involved in the scheme, creating what officials are calling a secure Facebook group for cyber threats.

A senior Whitehall official told the Financial Times: “The operational centre will give us a much richer picture than we have had before of what is going on in cyber space. The security service representatives will be able to tell business what threats are emerging in cyber space. In turn, the businesses will be able to tell the security services when they have been subjected to attack.”

Meanwhile, the British government has refused to disclose the list of cyber threat countries. Experts, however, say that the UK companies have cyber threats from China, Russia, and Iran. All three countries have denied the accusations citing that they are themselves the victims of hacking.

The new unit was formally known as the Cyber Security Information Sharing partnership.

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.