The UK is to create a 2000-strong cyber-offensive force to counter the threat from Russia and other hostile nation-state actors, according to a report on Sky News.
Quoting government sources, the report says the plans have been developed by the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ and will be announced soon.
It would be a four-fold increase in manpower for offensive cyber operations.
It follows the successful use of cyber offensive operations against Islamic State and the growing threat from Russia and other hostile nation-states.
It is part of a pattern of countries taking an increasingly proactive stance in the fight against online crime, espionage and sabotage. Recently the members of the Five Eyes intelligence group pledged to pursue domestic powers in their respective countries to access encrypted electronic communications.
According to Sky, the new cyber-force would be a joint operation between GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence. An international operation against IS has been been run, on the UK end, out of GCHQ in Cheltenham and the military’s permanent joint headquarters in Northwood.
The joint cyber-force would be established in a separate, as yet to be agreed location. It could be run by GCHQ and the military, each taking it in turns to supply the head of the organisation, Sky said.
The rumours follow the announcement yesterday that the US government can now respond to foreign cyber-attacks with offensive tools. It is part of the US government’s new cyber-strategy, signed by President Trump.
Cyber-offensive capabilities will also have the effect of deterring nation-states from attacking the US, according to national security adviser John Bolton. He also indicated that responses to cyber-attacks might not always take place in cyberspace but could also extend to the real world and encompass sanctions or military action.
The US’s new cyber-strategy is built around four pillars:
- Protecting federal government networks and critical infrastructure
- Preventing theft of intellectual property
- Exposing and attributing cyber-attacks
- Promoting responsible behaviour among nation-states