Britain is splurging £265m on military cyber security – and that includes offensive capabilities, according to Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute yesterday, Sir Michael said the investment into the Cyber Vulnerability Investigations programme would “help us protect against these threats”.
“The average cost of the most severe online security breaches for bigger companies starts at almost £1.5m, up £600,000 from 2014,” said Sir Michael, adding: “It’s only a matter of time before we have to deal with a major attack on UK interests.”
So far Britain has managed to avoid the sort of targeted large-scale hacks that have seen big US tech companies such as Yahoo! see 500 million user accounts compromised, or the Target hack which saw millions of credit card and debit card details as well as names and addresses leaked into the hands of cyber-criminals.
It seems, from Sir Michael's speech, that Blighty is gearing up to proactively attack any cyber-villains with designs on British internet infrastructure.
Lauding various government security initiatives, including the National Cyber Security Centre in Victoria, London, the Defence Secretary said: “This cannot just be about our defence. It must be about our offence too. It is important that our adversaries know there is a price to pay if they use cyber weapons against us, and that we have the capability to project power in cyberspace as elsewhere.”
Given that most large-scale hacks tend to be backed by states such as China and Russia, it seems that Sir Michael's speech is a public shot across their bows, warning them not to target Blighty – while simultaneously urging NATO to treat the Article 5 collective defence provisions as applying to cyberspace.
Originally, Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which founded NATO, was intended to ensure that any westward expansion of the Soviet Union would trigger World War Three by dragging Britain and America in, thereby keeping the Soviets and the Eastern Bloc's expansionist aims firmly under control.
It is unlikely that many countries would take Article 5 seriously in the context of cyberspace, given that many NATO member states effectively ignore the treaty requirement for them to spend two per cent of GDP on military spending. ®