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UK.gov cautious on EU cyberwar effort

Others not ready, officials warn

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Security chiefs are considering joining an EU wargame to help guard critical internet infrastructure against attacks from enemy states or criminals, but Whitehall officials are concerned other members of the bloc are not ready.

A recently-circulated Brussels strategy paper called for a European cyberwar exercise by the end of 2010. The European Commission wants a wargame styled after "Cyber Storm", the massive US government cyber defence exercise carried out in 2006.

In response to the call the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for coordinating infrastructure protection policy across government, told The Register it was considering the EU's call for co-operation.

"Government would support, and consider participating in, an EU exercise should this be valuable to enhancing response capacity and preparedness," a spokesman said.

However, officials cautioned that some states were not ready to deal with a concerted attack on EU internet infrastructure, such as the massive denial of service campaign that crippled communications in Estonia in 2007.

"Ability to respond to incidents currently varies widely across Europe, and the UK is well ahead of the game," the Cabinet Office said.

"But in order for EU exercises to function in a valuable way, participants need to have built up sufficient capacity to participate effectively."

The UK already participates in international cyber defence exercises through its membership of NATO and the G8, the Cabinet Office said. Domestic preparations are handled in partnership with the mobile and fixed line operators, as well as major internet infrastructure organisations.

"This nationwide rolling programme of exercises is designed to ensure we have the best possible contingency plans in place to respond to a whole range of civil emergency scenarios," the Cabinet Office said, naming natural disasters, accidents and acts of terrorism as threats its industry forum considers.

In calling for cooperation on critical internet infrastructure, the EU said it wanted the bloc as a whole to be "more prepared for and resistant to cyber-attacks and disruptions". Currently, it would seem the UK government believes it is ready for digital disaster with or without help from its European friends. ®

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