Brexit Effects on Technology, Security and More

The people of the United Kingdom (UK) have voted to leave the European Union (EU). But what does Brexit mean for technology and security professionals around the world in the public and private sectors?

by / June 26, 2016
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage celebrates at Leave.Eu party as results come through on June 24, 2016 in Westminster. (Andrew Parsons/i-Images/Zuma Press/TNS)

In a historic vote that stunned the world, the people of the United Kingdom (UK) opted to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum held this past Thursday. The Brexit vote shocked political and economic experts who just earlier in the week expected the UK to remain in the EU in a close vote.

“June 23rd will go down in history as our independence day,” said Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

The Daily Telegraph (UK) reported this post-Brexit news:

Britain has a "glorious opportunity" to re-establish itself on the world stage, Boris Johnson said, in his first comments hours after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

The former London mayor and favourite to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader and Prime Minister said the UK “can find our voice in the world again. ...”

 

The huge ramifications of the vote became immediately apparent, as Prime Minister David Cameron announced his intent to step down by October, and global stock markets sank dramatically.

And yet, despite some signs of economic unrest and financial upheaval, the world digested the news in an orderly fashion.

Many people throughout the UK and the world cheered the new freedoms and liberty that could now be restored to the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit. I watched dozens of interviews with men and women who were delighted with the result and felt any short-term pain (such as a drop in currency value) was well worth it to “make Great Britain great again!”

And yet, there are many others in the UK that feel devastated by this vote. This CNBC article describes the viral feelings of the majority of young people (many of whom are in tech industries around London) that had hoped to stay in the EU and not feel betrayed.

Firstly, it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded, and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term. They have merely swapped one distant and unreachable elite for another.

Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.

Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy. When the facts met the myths they were as useless as bullets bouncing off the bodies of aliens in an HG Wells novel. When Michael Gove said, 'The British people are sick of experts,' he was right. But can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has led to anything other than bigotry?”

The U.S. news media immediately focused on Donald Trump’s words during his visit to Scotland, as well as President Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s reactions to Brexit.

The Huffington Post focused on how Brexit Will Fundamentally Change the Future of Europe. “After Thursday’s vote, the UK will become the first-ever country to leave the EU, and its absence will be noticeable.”

On Friday, Bloomberg reported that Brexit Pounds Some Technology Companies.

National Public Radio (NPR) reported this story about new nationalist reactions to globalization that contributed to the UK vote result. The author sees similar trends in the U.S. and rising around the world:

"This is not a unique phenomenon to the United States, and 2016 is not a short moment that will pass," says Yascha Mounk, who teaches political theory at Harvard University and has studied the rise of nationalist movements. "This is a real populist turn that has been happening for the last 15 or 20 years. ..."

"People feel, quite rightly, that they have no real control over political systems — that the political class does what it wants and it sort of ignores ordinary people," Mounk says. "And to a large extent, that's because of the necessities of globalization."

It is also clear that many of the same issues surrounding immigration and borders are surfacing around the world, including the U.S.  

After Brexit: Predictions and Next Steps

Before we discuss likely impacts to the tech industry around the world, we must acknowledge that the predictions about what’s next for the United Kingdom are all over the map.

This CNBC piece described the basics of what formally happens next after the Brexit vote, such as invoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Some commentators believe that this vote will eventually lead to the end of the EU. Indeed other countries will likely have their own vote, if right-wing politicians have their way.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's anti-immigrant National Front party, wrote this on her Twitter account: “Victory for Freedom! As I have been asking for years, we must now have the same referendum in France and EU countries.” 

But while some predicted the eventual end of the euro, others EU leaders called for the UK to leave the EU as soon as possible for a speedy divorce. The EU political leaders want to get the exit over quickly.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, told the Guardian that EU lawyers were studying whether it was possible to speed up the triggering of article 50 of the Lisbon treaty — the untested procedure for leaving the union.

As the EU’s institutions scrambled to respond to the bodyblow of Britain’s exit, Schulz said uncertainty was “the opposite of what we need,” adding that it was difficult to accept that “a whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party.”

Technology and Cybersecurity Implications

So what impacts should technology and cybersecurity professionals expect from the Brexit vote? Remember that even though the vote has occurred, most legal changes could take two years or more to implement.

Wired Magazine in the UK described how Brexit will impact the science and technology industries. I like these points:

  • Whether the UK is able to stay in the single market will be a key point that will impact businesses. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said he will push for the country to stay within the trading agreement as part of the forthcoming negotiations between EU and the UK.
  • Following the referendum result, Dame Julia Goodfellow, the president of Universities UK — a collection 133 universities — said the body would look to "secure opportunities" for students and researchers to be able to access "vital pan-European programs."
  • Data protection is another EU-prescribed area. A new European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was passed in April after more than four years of negotiation. The regulations, which will outline how citizens' data is processed, is set to be implemented across the EU in 2018.

International Business Times (IBT) reported on the potential cyberimpacts to the workforce talent crunch, escalating cost of operations, data sharing and privacy laws, and even the threat of a cyberattack growing. However, I find several of these items to be overblown.

For example, I think the UK has the best cybersecurity workforce and capabilities in the EU currently, and it will be a larger loss for the EU cybersecurity than for the UK. The UK has the most cybersecurity companies in Europe, and their ability to assist other EU countries may be impacted.

SC Magazine UK reported on how Tripwire conducted a poll of information security professionals at InfoSecurity Europe 2016. Of 278 people questioned, 64 percent said that there would basically be no change as a result of an exit vote.

ABI research wrote this summary regarding Brexit and cybersecurity focusing mainly on the skills shortages in cybersecurity being impacted.

Information Age asked the question: Will Brexit Cause a Texit? They listed 10 ways the vote will affect technology.

BankInfoSecurity.com offered these 5 Cybersecurity Implications to Brexit. I certainly agree that these are the right areas to focus on in the coming months and years ahead. However, I am not as sure as this author seems to be that the UK will struggle in these areas as described. For example, I have a hard time believing that cybersecurity intelligence will be significantly derailed. The EU will also miss the UK in cyber, so I expect close cooperation to continue on cybercrime.

Computerweekly UK warned that Brexit will not save you from the EU data protection rules. “UK businesses offering services to EU citizens regardless of whether they hold any data in the EU will have to adopt more stringent rules than the ones currently imposed by the UK Data Protection Act. Otherwise trade via personal data flows with Europe is off the table.”

My Thoughts on Brexit and Technology Security

Back in May, I wrote this blog with seven reasons you should care about Brexit, describing why this topic is important to Americans including our tech and security implications. This Brexit focus from Norton Rose Fulbright offers more details on several of my seven points.

I think it is very important to watch the developments throughout the EU and the UK negotiations over the next two years in order to grasp what will truly happen regarding technology and security. As the dust and hysteria settle on both sides, some of the basic questions will be answered, such as:

  • Will the UK remain in the free-trading bloc?
  • What EU regulations (including data and privacy) will still apply in the UK?
  • What actions will tech companies in the UK need to take to placate EU customers?
  • What other EU member states will leave (such as Nexit, Frexit or Italeave)?

For more immediate computer impacts, I urge end users around the world to be on the lookout for scams, phishing attempts and websites that take advantage of the Brexit confusion to trick people into taking foolish actions related to Brexit and surrounding issues.

My advice: reread this pieces on phishing, spear-phishing and whaling with a special attention given to anything related to Brexit, EU, UK and related content. The bad guys always thrive with tricky phish in times of confusion, when people will break out of normal patterns and click on new content, so know who you trust online. Remember that these scams can come via phone, email, fax, text or social media message.

Finally, I am excited for my friends in the UK as they start down this new road to the future. As I mentioned in May, my family lived in the UK for almost seven years in the 1990s, and we love that country in so many ways. The UK people have spoken, and I have high hopes for my many friends in the UK.

I leave you with this quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”