News: Spending to double, with new cyber security centres launched to tackle skills gap.
Chancellor George Osborne has vowed that Britain will "hit back" at cyber attacks from ISIS or other terrorist organisations, saying: "We reserve the right to respond to a cyber attack in any way that we choose."
The chancellor said that Britain would face "hybrid conflicts" in the future, pressing the need to equip Britain with the necessary tools to fight on a 21st Century battlefield.
"A 21st Century military has to operate as effectively in cyberspace as it does on land and sea, in the air and space."
In a major address at GCHQ’s headquarters, the Chancellor highlighted the threats to the country, as well as the fact that Britain will no longer remain defensive, but offensive, in the face of such threats.
Osborne said: "The threats to our country in cyber space come from a range of places – from individual hackers, criminal gangs, terrorist groups and hostile powers. To all of them I have a clear message. We will defend ourselves. But we will also take the fight to you too."
"We need not just to defend ourselves against attacks, but rather to dissuade people and states from targeting us in the first place."
In what marked the first time a Chancellor had made a speech at the home of Britain’s listening agency, Osborne pledged a doubling of spend on cyber security to £1.9bn, saying: "We need those who would harm us to know that we will defend ourselves robustly. And that we have the means to do so."
Ensuring the country has the means and resources for a fight in the cyber world, Osborne announced two new cyber innovation centres, to act as a base for start-ups, with one of them in Cheltenham where GCHQ is based.
Bolstering the new offensive cyber approach, Osborne pointed to the investment in the National Offensive Cyber Programme, which enables and provides "a dedicated ability to counter-attack in cyberspace."
Touching upon the cyber threat to the UK economy and business, using examples such as the high profile attack on TalkTalk, Osborne used his speech to urge a multi-lateral response to cyber crime.
Addressing industry concerns of the ‘alphabet soup’ of agencies and multi-jurisdictional threats, Osborne moved from attack to resilience, saying:
"Just as we build our resilience to cyber attack, so too we will keep building our resilience to terrorist attacks – in all their evil and murderous forms", he said.
"This requires effort by all of us – government and industry, start-ups and universities, agencies and allies."
He said protection of Britain and its businesses could only be done by creating the ‘strongest possible alliance of like-minded states that share our vision."
The technology industry was quick to respond, with TechUK’s James Murphy, Associate Director for Defence & Security, saying: "What was once considered a niche area in the wider national security debate has emerged front and centre in the government’s priorities.
"As the Chancellor made clear, it is only with the support of the world class cyber companies based in the UK that his vision will be realised.
"Therefore we call on the government to work in partnership with industry to make our nation the most cyber capable in the world."