Britain is ready to retaliate against cyber attacks with a conventional military response “from any domain, air, land, sea”, said Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. The range of actions would include cyber attacks, he added, saying that “we are now using offensive cyber routinely in the war against Daesh, not only in Iraq but also in the campaign to liberate Raqqa and other towns on the Euphrates”. His comments coincided with reports of a new global cyber attack spreading from Russia to Britain.
In a speech at the Cyber 2017 Chatham House Conference today, Fallon said there were three ways to make the nation more resilient against cyber attack, including ensuring that military and civilian systems “are robust.” He said: “We’re building up a new 21stcentury Cyber Corps, a band of expert volunteers, leaders in industry, who are going advise us on how to keep ahead in the cyber space race. Finally, cyber is becoming now a core part of our military training. In January, we will open a dedicated state-of-the-art Defence Cyber School at Shrivenham, bringing together all our military joint cyber training into one place.”
The second was encouraging a “culture of resilience”, in which regular system updates and stronger passwords would reduce the chances of damaging attacks of the kind that had hit the NHS recently and, at the weekend, the House of Commons.
Fallon went on to say: “But there’s a third way in which we can protect our national infrastructure, and that’s by strengthening our deterrence. So we’re using our rising budget to invest our £178bn in full spectrum capability, from carriers to Ajax armoured vehicles, fifth generation F35 to the latest UAVs, signalling to potential cyber strikers that the price of an online attack could invite a response from any domain, air, land, sea or cyber space.
“And when it comes to the latter, we’re making sure that offensive cyber is now an integral part of our arsenal. We now have the skills to expose cyber criminals, to them hunt down and to prosecute them, to respond in kind to any assault at a time of our choosing.”
The UK Government’s ‘National Offensive Cyber Planning’ is allowing integration of cyber into military operations. “To help create a picture of the virtual battlefield we have recently here in the United Kingdom launched a multi-million pound competition to develop machine learning algorithms and Artificial Intelligence which will assimilate this wealth of new data and will free up our personnel to deliver a more coordinated, targeted response.
“The first contracts from that investment have already been awarded to a variety of UK suppliers including from academia and innovative micro-scale businesses and other SMEs, all of whom are working on a range of solutions from rapid sensor integration to predictive cognitive control systems.”
Fallon concluded: “Cyber is a serious problem. It is a growing problem. But my message … is that Government here and Defence, in particular, is on the case. Over the next few years we’re going to be redoubling our efforts to strengthen our resilience against our adversaries, to strengthen our hand against our cyber adversaries and to ensure those who mean to do our country harm, offline or online, have nowhere to hide.”