Brits Get Serious About Cyber Security
September 30, 2013

The Brits Get Serious About Cyber Defense

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Britain’s Ministry of Defense will sound the call for computer savvy recruits next month as they prepare their Joint Cyber Reserve Unit. Military reservists and those exiting the forces will also be encouraged to join the new unit which will protect the UK from potential cyber attacks. The so-called “cyber reservists” will work in concert with the military to protect the nation’s networks and the data stored therein, according to Minister of Defense Philip Hammond.

He announced these plans on Sunday, saying the threat of cyber warfare is very real. Hammond says he’ll be working with a budget of £500 million, (about $808 million) though he’s also facing budget cuts elsewhere in the ministry. Earlier this summer the US announced plans for their own cyber defense squad called Cyber Command.

“More and more, modern warfare will be about people sitting in bunkers in front of computer screens, whether remotely piloted aircraft or cyber weapons,” said Hammond in an interview with the Daily Mail.

“This is the new frontier of defense. For years, we have been building a defensive capability to protect ourselves against these cyber attacks. That is no longer enough. You deter people by having an offensive capability. We will build in Britain a cyber strike capability so we can strike back in cyber space against enemies who attack us, putting cyber alongside land, sea, air and space as a mainstream military activity.”

New cyber weaponry could also replace traditional methods, including fighter jets, missiles and troops on the ground. According to Hammond, the new “keyboard commandoes” could one day use computer viruses and worms to disarm enemies, rather than using means of brute force. Though the force was originally built up in secret, Hammond now says Britain is the first nation to publicly announce “cyber strike capability.” The nation already owns and operates a cyber defense arm to protect itself against incoming attacks from foreign countries, but the new arm adds the ability to launch cyber attacks as well. The cyber strike force will work together with spies from Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in future attacks.

Hammond says this new effort represents the most significant change to the military since tanks replaced cavalry troops in World War One. The new recruitment effort, which is slated to launch next month, will target anyone with the proper skills, including civilians, active military personnel, exiting military personnel, and reservists.

In July, the GCHQ reported that they experience about 70 sophisticated cyber attacks against British government and industry networks each month. Despite this, some officials have opposed Hammond’s plan to extend their cyber defense arm of the military.

“I’m sure a healthy debate raged 100 years ago about whether to invest in new-fangled tanks and stop buying hay for the horses,” said Hammond in his interview. "Those who think they are defending our military capability by defending the shape of the military of last year or the last decade aren't defending it at all."

While this change is meant to protect Britain against new attacks, it also means reducing the budget elsewhere. Though Hammond didn’t specifically say how much other arms of the military will be affected, he did say the money is being redistributed to the new cyber defense sector.