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Sir Oliver Letwin criticised for ‘offensive’ on-air comment warning ‘some autistic person’ could pose risk to cyber security | Dorset Echo

Cyber Security | May 13, 2020

A FORMER West Dorset MP has been criticised for controversial comments made live on air during a radio broadcast which said ‘some autistic person’ could pose a risk to cyber security.

Sir Oliver Letwin was speaking about his new book Apocalypse How? on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme when he made the comments.

His new novel, set in 2037, explores our dependence on technology – and how it is leaving the UK ‘open to catastrophe.’

Speaking to Today co-host Justin Webb, Sir Oliver said: “We are not prepared for the problems we are storing up in a network always connected to a digitally controlled society and if it all goes wrong, it will go very, very wrong.

“Things are getting vastly more efficient because we are moving towards, essentially, having one network.

“What I picture in this book is a time when things have got to the stage where there is just one network and that has huge advantages. It also has a disadvantage which means we’re very vulnerable because if that network goes down, everything that we rely on stops.

“We are making ourselves more efficient, more powerful, more wealthy; but we’re also making ourselves more fragile and more vulnerable. There are so many different ways that these networks could be attacked, either by nature or a terrorist attack, another country attacking us or, in fact, just some autistic person or some strange youth sitting in some place in the world who’s connected to our network by the internet who gets in and does something.”

He called for an ‘analogue fallback’ to global networks.

His comment caused a backlash online and was labelled ‘deeply offensive.’

Campaigner Nicky Clark, who has two autistic daughters and was herself diagnosed with the condition aged 48, criticised both Sir Oliver and Mr Webb, who did not challenge the former MP’s remark.

Ms Clark said: “Conflating autism and criminality is bigoted and ignorant and required robust challenge. When I heard Oliver Letwin I could not believe it. So much has been done to awaken people to neuro diversity and to get rid of the stigma and it’s slipped back again. There is still so much ignorance.”

The BBC declined to comment but did refer to a tweet by Mr Webb in response to Ms Clark.

He tweeted: “Sorry I hold up hand – I felt in that split second that it wasn’t malicious and didn’t want to derail discussion but I can see why you’re disappointed and obviously what you say about autism is quite right.”

Sir Oliver has been approached for comment.