The government has unveiled plans to boost the UK’s offensive cyber capabilities with the creation of a series of operations centres costing £22m.
The centres will be at the heart of the UK’s cyber warfare operations and work in close collaboration with national security organisations and the army’s specialist information-focused unit, the 77 Brigade.
Operatives will be tasked with providing round the clock analysis to the army, dispelling misinformation and countering digital threats, while supporting military work in the UK and abroad.
“These new cyber centres will allow the Army and Defence to transform the way we use data, at speed, so that we can compete with our adversaries in a way fit for the 21st Century,” said Tom Copinger-Symes, general officer commanding Force Troops Command.
“Combining artificial intelligence with our military analysts will help us better understand threats and exploit opportunities, in turn enabling us to get the truth out much more rapidly, quashing the noise of disinformation from our enemies.”
The initiative was unveiled by the defence secretary Penny Mourdant during a speech at the NATO Cyber Defence Pledge Conference in London highlighting the wide variety of threats facing the UK.
“Whether the attacks come from Russia, China or North Korea, whether they come from hacktivists, criminals or extremists, whether its malware or fake news, cyber can bring down our national infrastructure and undermine our democracy,” she said.
“It’s time to pay more than lip service to cyber. We must convince our adversaries their advances simply aren’t worth the cost. Cyber enemies think they can act with impunity. We must show them they can’t. That we are ready to respond at a time and place of our choosing in any domain, not just the virtual world.”
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Speaking on Thursday, the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed the National Cyber Security Centre had passed on information about Russian cyber activity to 16 NATO allies over the last 18 months.
“We can and must do more to improve our response,” he said. “In particular, we should be more emphatic about what we consider to be unacceptable behaviour and the consequences for any breach of international law.”