Feeds

Government plans cyberweapons programme

Cabinet Office and GCHQ lead on developing offensive cyber capability

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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 essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.