UK to develop cyber-offensive capabilities, says UK chancellor in GCHQ speech
UK to develop cyber-offensive capabilities, says UK chancellor in GCHQ speech

The UK's chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has set out a plan today to make Britain one of the safest places to do business online by making cyber-security a top priority for government.

In a speech given at GCHQ in Cheltenham this morning, Osborne said he was announcing a bold, comprehensive cyber-security programme.

“It will give our companies and our citizens confidence that their cyber-safety is being properly protected. It will ensure that Britain remains at the cutting edge of the global cyber economy,” he said.

Taking advantage of savings from other government departments – which have had to cut their budgets by an average of 24 percent – Osborne said the government would double the amount being spent on cyber-security, from £950 million over five years to £1.9 billion over the same period.

Combined with other government spending on protecting IT systems, the total amount being spent by the government over five years on cyber-security will be £3.2 billion.

The plan

Osborne outlined a five-step cyber-defence programme.

Firstly, the country must take steps to defend itself online, and the government will be increasing the capabilities of the National Cyber Crime Unit which will work with agencies in other countries to make the internet unsafe for cyber-criminals.

The government will also take further steps to defend government systems and improve detection systems. It will also work with ISPs to divert traffic from known bad addresses.

Secondly, Osborne wants to rationalise the multiple agencies which have sprung up to deal with cyber-crime so that businesses have a single point of contact for help and advice, and he aims to achieve this with the creation next year of the National Cyber Centre which will report to the director of GCHQ.

“Reporting to GCHQ will mean the Centre can draw on the necessarily secret world-class expertise within this organisation,” he said.

The third plank of his plan is to ensure there are enough skilled coders by addressing the skills gap. The government will run a competition and invite bids from universities, businesses and others for ideas and plans for the creation of a new Institute of Coding – with a £20 million prize to the winning group.

Part four of the plan is to create a commercial ecosystem to encourage and nurture cyber startups. He envisages people moving in and out of organisations like GCHQ to stimulate the development of new products and services.

“We need an ecosystem in which great ideas get translated into great companies,” he said. The government will establish two cyber innovation centres where cyber startups, including security firms, can base themselves. One of the centres will be in Cheltenham, near GCHQ.

The government will also create a £165 million Defence and Cyber Innovation Fund, with the aim of supporting procurement across defence and cyber-security.

The final plank in the plan is to establish a deterrent capability in cyberspace, he said.