Ben Wallace says UK is building 'offensive' cyber attack capability

Britain braces for ‘Tier 1’ cyber attack: Ben Wallace says UK is building capability to target ‘critical infrastructure’ of hostile states to retaliate to hacking

  • Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said UK building ‘offensive’ cyber attack power
  • New £5billion National Cyber Force headquarters will be built in Lancashire
  • Mr Wallace said UK will be able to strike back against nation states that attack

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced the UK is building a new digital warfare centre capable of launching ‘offensive’ cyber attacks against hostile powers. 

The new £5billion National Cyber Force headquarters will be built in the north west of England in Samlesbury, Lancashire. 

He said the UK is yet to suffer a ‘tier one’ and ‘catastrophic’ cyber attack and it would be a ‘dereliction of duty’ if the Government was not in a position to strike back on the same scale. 

The centre will be built in the heart of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ of traditional Labour seats which the Tories took in the 2019 general election. 

Boris Johnson is expected to cite the investment in his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference – which begins this weekend in Manchester – as an example of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced the UK is building a new digital warfare centre capable of launching ‘offensive’ cyber attacks against hostile powers

Mr Wallace said the UK is yet to suffer a ‘tier one’ and ‘catastrophic’ cyber attack and it would be a ‘dereliction of duty’ if the Government was not in a position to strike back on the same scale

Mr Wallace said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph: ‘Some foreign states are waging cyber warfare on us every single day. And we have a right under international law and among ourselves to defend ourselves. 

‘We will defend ourselves from cyber warfare if that warfare is dangerous, corrupting, or damaging. 

‘And one of the ways you can do that is to dismantle the tools that are used against you. For example, if a hostile state is using a server to deploy ransomware against you, or spyware, or using disinformation, you could use offensive cyber to deal with those servers.’

Asked if the National Cyber Force will be able to attack the critical national infrastructure of a hostile state, he said: ‘It would be a dereliction of duty if these capabilities weren’t on our shelves. 

‘Who knows where we’ll be in 20 years’ time, we haven’t had a tier one cyber attack yet, a catastrophic cyber attack.’      

Mr Wallace compared the impact of the new centre – which is expected to employ thousands of cyber experts and analysts by 2030 – to the location of GCHQ in Cheltenham in the 1950s.

‘Cheltenham was a small country town and look what it has done. That’s what we mean by levelling up,’ he told the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson is expected to cite the investment in his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference – which begins this weekend in Manchester – as an example of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda

Mr Wallace said the creation of the new centre – which will be run jointly by GCHQ – would put Britain ‘at the front’ of the countries which are able to mount offensive cyber attacks.

‘We will be one of the very, very few nations in the world with that scale,’ he said.

The Defence Secretary said cyber had become ‘a new domain in battle’ and that it is essential Britain is able to operate there against potential adversaries.

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