UK 'solidifies' plans for offensive cyber capabilities


Latest announcement indicates that UK's cyber offensive strategy still at the planning stage

The UK’s plans for a National Cyber Force are still taking shape, according to defence secretary Ben Wallace, in spite of funding being announced more than a year ago. 

Speaking to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the defence secretary said that "the UK will soon solidify plans for a National Cyber Force to ensure a stronger presence in the new contested frontier", but that previous responses to "cyber, disinformation, assassination, corruption" attacks have "not been good enough".

"We are neither nimble enough nor deterring enough and that is where we must aim our investments,'' he said. 

The defence secretary even hinted at the development of extra-terrestrial offensive capabilities, stating: "We should not be naive to think that China and Russia are not interested in offensive capabilities in Space. If they go high we must go high, if they go deep we must go deep."

A Government spokesperson told SC Media UK that: "The MoD and GCHQ have a long and proud history of working together, including on the National Offensive Cyber Programme. We are both committed to continuing to invest in this area, given the real threats the UK faces from a range of hostile actors."

The comments follow reports in September 2018 that £250m of funding for the establishment of an offensive cyber-force unit had been authorised, although it is not clear if the new National Cyber Force will have access to additional funding. 

Earlier this year, then-Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt announced a £22 million funding boost to "create new cyber-operations centres", but did not clarify if these were set to be defensive, offensive or both in nature.

Matt Walmsley, EMEA Director at Vectra commented to SC Media UK: "The need to deny, degrade, or counter digital attacks by nation states, and other nefarious groups means that offensive cyber competencies are part of the arsenal that modern governments all have access to. The lines between physical and digital warfare, are becoming increasingly blurred. We’re in another arms race, where each move informs a counter move and escalation of capabilities."

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