The Ministry of Defence (MoD) detected and blocked more than 1,000 ‘potentially serious' cyber attacks last year.
According to a report in the Telegraph, defence secretary Liam Fox said electronic attacks on Britain doubled from 2009 to 2010 and that Britain is now in continuous combat with an ‘invisible enemy' in cyber space.
Speaking to the London Chambers of Commerce defence industry dinner, Fox did not say who was behind the attacks, but that the MoD was ‘targeted by criminals, foreign intelligence services and other malicious actors seeking to exploit our people, corrupt our systems and steal information'.
Fox said: “The risks to defence are real, and I take them very seriously. Our national intellectual property in defence and security industries is at risk from a systematic marauding.
“Not only could it severely affect the future success of British industry, our economic advantage, and the country's financial recovery - but also directly impacts upon our national security today.
“This is the war of the invisible enemy. Success cannot be achieved by government alone because, in cyber space, there are few boundaries between government, business and every individual internet user.”
Richard Walters, CTO of Invictis, said that these figures are indicative of the growth and evolution of cyber crime.
He said: “What is also notable is that it's not just foreign intelligence services but also criminals and other malicious groups carrying out the attacks. This suggests that these highly organised cyber gangs aren't just after state secrets; they're also driven by greed and competitive and economic advantage.
“Attacks against the MoD have increased, but so too have the number of attacks being perpetrated against UK businesses and the economy as a whole. These attacks are increasingly sophisticated and targeted. Organisations need to be aware of this and enhance their security ecosystems to include intelligence on the types and complexities of cyber threats specific to their industry, sector and size.”
Nir Zuk, CTO and founder of Palo Alto Networks, said: “Fox's comments come as no surprise. Cyber criminals are increasingly using social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to infect user's machines and compromise the security of data held within the enterprise network.
“In a world where UK business is increasingly conducted online, it's foreseeable that companies are more vulnerable to attack and that they need to be ready for these new threats. Enterprises need systems that allow visibility into all traffic entering and leaving the corporate network, ensuring they are protecting their network from potentially fierce attacks.”
Yesterday, home secretary Theresa May outlined plans for a new National Crime Agency (NCA) that will come fully into being by 2013. The NCA is intended to be a powerful crime-fighting body right at the centre of policing, tackling organised crime, defending borders, fighting fraud and cyber crime and protect children and young people.
The NCA will bring together distinct operational commands, improving the effectiveness with which the police tackle serious and organised criminality.
May said: “For too long, central government micro-managed and interfered in local policing. We are putting the government's focus where it should have been all along - on securing our borders and tackling national and international level serious and organised crime.
“Organised crime, border crime, economic crime, cyber crime and child exploitation are real problems, for real people. All areas of the country suffer their effects, from the very poorest communities to the most affluent; from the smallest villages to the biggest cities and it is often the most vulnerable in our society who suffer the greatest harm.
“We owe it to them to do more to tackle the scourge of drugs, to better defend our borders, to fight fraud and to protect our children and young people. The National Crime Agency will do all of those things and more.”