Feeds

Government plans cyberweapons programme

Cabinet Office and GCHQ lead on developing offensive cyber capability

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Whitehall officials have revealed that work has begun on a range of offensive cyberweapons to add to its defensive capability.

It is understood that the Cabinet Office and the Cyber Security Operations Centre at GCHQ have taken the lead on the issue, and that in time there will be some input from the Ministry of Defence.

The MoD recently appointed General Jonathan Shaw from the Parachute Regiment to head a defence cyber-operations group. He told the Guardian that cyberspace represented "conflict without borders".

The armed forces minister, Nick Harvey, told the Guardian that "action in cyberspace will form part of the future battlefield", and that he now regards cyberweapons as "an integral part of the country's armoury". It is the first official acknowledgment that such a programme exists.

"We need a toolbox of capabilities and that's what we are currently developing," he said. "The circumstances and manner in which we would use them are broadly analogous to what we would do in any other domain."

Harvey added: "Cyber is a new domain but the rules and norms, the logic and the standards that operate in any other domain ... translate across into cyberspace. "I don't think that the existence of a new domain will, in itself, make us any more offensive than we are in any other domain. The legal conventions within which we operate are quite mature and well established."

Last year's national security strategy made cybersecurity a tier one priority, and an extra £650m was found for it in the strategic defence and security review (SDSR). Harvey said that digital networks were now "at the heart of our transport, power and communications systems", and this reliance had "brought the capacity for warfare to cyberspace".

"The consequences of a well planned, well executed attack against our digital infrastructure could be catastrophic ... With nuclear or biological weapons, the technical threshold is high. With cyber the finger hovering over the button could be anyone from a state to a student."

Though Harvey did not specify where future threats might come from, he warned that "it would be foolish to assume the west can always dictate the pace and direction of cybertechnology".

He highlighted how China, for one, is developing "modern militaries and modern technologies".

The foreign secretary, William Hague, told a security conference in Munich in February that the Foreign Office had repelled a cyberattack a month earlier from "a hostile state intelligence agency". Sources told the Guardian at the time that the attack was believed to originate from Chinese intelligence agencies.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Delaware pair nabbed for getting saucy atop Mexican eatery
Burrito meets soft taco in alleged rooftop romp outrage
LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy
Why, we might as well have been buying AIR
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.