The government has dismissed Tory claims that the UK is not equipped to battle digital attacks on its national security.
David Cameron backed the claim as he launched his party's national security green paper today. It criticises GCHQ's Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC), which is due to begin work in March.
"Even when it is operational, the Centre is only intended to analyse the threats – not to do anything about them," the Tories charged.
"We can't go on like this. The UK needs to be able to detect and prevent attacks before they hit us. In other words, it needs a proactive and effective capability to respond to cyber attacks."
The Cabinet Office, which has overall responsibility for national security and recently set up the Office of Cyber Security (OCS) to oversee policy around online threats, said it was perplexed by the claim.
A spokesman said arrangements are in place to counter cyber attacks if neccessary, but declined to provide further detail.
"I don't quite know where they got that from to be honest," he added, referring to the Conservative criticism of CSOC.
CSOC was announced as part of the UK's first Cyber Security Strategy last summer. To begin with it will have 19 staff.
The Conservatives also announced they would set up a new Cyber Threat and Assessment Centre to "act as the single reporting point for all cyber-related incidents".
The Cabinet Office spokesman said the policy seemed to replicate what was already being done in government through the OCS. Led by senior civil servant Neil Thompson, with deputies Dr Steve Marsh and Air Commodore Graham Wright, the new unit is soon due to begin meetings with industry to discuss its plans. ®