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National Cyber Force

The UK will create a National Cyber Force, to disrupt terrorists, hostile state activity and criminals; and a new ‘Space Command’, to protect the UK’s interests in space and control the UK’s first satellite launched from a UK rocket by 2022.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace hailed the financial certainty to modernise, plan for the future, and adapt to threats. He said: “It demonstrates the Prime Minister’s recognition of how important Defence is to our resilience, and to the reputation of the United Kingdom. This settlement secures UK jobs and livelihoods, allows us to invest in our fantastic shipyards and aerospace industry, spreading prosperity to every corner of the UK.

“Next year represents a huge opportunity for this country, and Defence will be at the forefront of creating the jobs and business opportunities that will help us build back from the pandemic. Over the next few months, I will set out in more detail our ambitious agenda for Defence.”

PM Boris Johnson spoke to the House of Commons on an ‘integrated review’ of foreign, defence, security and development policy. He said: “I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first. The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War and Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies. To achieve this we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board.”

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For commentary by Prof Peter Roberts of the defence and security think-tank the Royal United Services Institute visit the RUSI website.

Dr Simon Harwood, Director of Defence and Security at Cranfield University, welcomed the speech. He said: “Space, electronic warfare, cyber and artificial intelligence are areas that offer challenges and opportunities that our armed forces and security services need to be able to operate effectively in. The UK has world-class innovators in these areas and it is essential that our armed forces are equipped, and trained, with the very best knowledge and tools in order to protect the nation.

“As the Defence Secretary stated, ‘We have to move with the threat’. Too often there is hiatus between innovation and deployment in the field and this settlement looks like it might go some way to address that issue.

“To address this emergent threat, at Cranfield University, we are already working in all of the critical areas identified with a focus on the innovation process, space, electronic warfare, cyber and artificial intelligence all with an overall emphasis towards UK national security and resilience. Working with SME’s and industry partners such as Pool Re, BAE Systems and Thales, alongside the UK Government and we look forward to continuing our work in helping the UK defend and protect its national interest.”

At the defence and security trade association ADS, Chief Executive Paul Everitt welcomed what he called a major commitment from the Government to invest in UK defence and security capabilities, creating 10,000 new UK jobs annually in high-value industries.

“This investment will boost our national security, help the UK address new and rapidly evolving threats by developing innovative world-class equipment, and support our economic recovery. The commitment to key projects will embed high-value design and manufacturing skills in all regions and nations of the UK for decades to come. It is important that the procurement regime delivers quickly and in a manner that prioritises UK industrial impact, aiding planning and clarity and helping to build back better.

“We look forward to publication of the Integrated Review in early 2021 and industry stands ready to ensure implementation of the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy best supports the contribution made to UK prosperity.”

Paul Farrington, EMEA CTO at Veracode, described the increase in UK military investment, particularly in cyber defence and automation, as a ‘positive milestone ‘in the UK government’s commitment to addressing new and emerging threats. “Given the current technology skills shortage, especially in security – only five undergraduate computer science degrees are certified by the UK’s NCSC for cybersecurity content – it’s clear more needs to be done to prepare for and mitigate the impact of cyber security attacks.”

Adam Palmer, Chief Security Strategist at Tenable, said prioritisation will be critical. “There have been numerous worrying reports of cyber-espionage, particularly focused on clinical research facilities and supporting healthcare practices. In tandem, cyberattacks against businesses have increased as illustrated by a study, conducted by Forrester on behalf of Tenable, that found 96% of UK businesses have been impacted by a cyberattack in the last 12 months. Even individuals aren’t safe. Cybercriminals target people with phishing emails to infiltrate unsecured systems and extract money or confidential information.

“Protecting critical infrastructure from harm has to be a priority, but also protecting wider systems that support business and everyday life in this increasingly connected world. Unfortunately, the reality is that, no matter how much money and resources the UK government dedicates to tackling the issue of cyber threats, this can only be effective with good prioritisation. Effective security is about focusing efforts on protecting first what matters most. For example, utilising threat intelligence, vulnerability research, and probability data allows the government to focus on the most critical risks. These are vulnerabilities that are actually at high risk of being exploited. These vulnerabilities are like cracks in a wall — most are unsightly yet the structure is still sound. However, it is important to identify the crack behind the cabinet that remains unnoticed and, if left untreated, could bring the entire house down.”

As background, view a blog by Fireeye on the European Union’s ‘Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox‘.


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