The funds will go in part toward establishing a National Cyber Centre aimed at countering cyber-threats to critical infrastructure
The government is to double its expenditure on cyber-security to £1.9 billion by 2020, and will establish a National Cyber Centre (NCC) at GCHQ in order to help protect the UK’s critical infrastructure against cyber-attacks by nation states and militant groups, Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce today.
Infrastructure such as power stations, the National Grid and hospitals have become more vulnerable as their critical systems are increasingly linked to the Internet, and the government’s plan is expected to create hundreds of jobs to counter this threat.
The NCC would largely focus on threats from nation-states, according to Osborne, but said militant groups such as Islamic State (IS), also known as Isis, are also to be targeted.
“When we talk about tackling Isis, that means tackling their cyber threat as well as guns, bombs and knives,” Osborne is to say, according to the government. “If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost.”
He is to say that while IS has not yet developed the capability of using “cyber warfare to kill people by attacking infrastructure, we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said security services have foiled a militant attack on the UK in recent weeks, and said he was sympathetic to accelerating introduction of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill into law. Delivering the Lord Mayor’s Banquet speech in London, he said “we should look at the timetable” of the draft bill.
However, Home Secretary Theresa May said the controversial new powers would receive “proper scrutiny” in Parliament before being introduced. The bill is currently planned to become law late next year.
Osborne’s remarks come at a time of heightened tensions following militant attacks on Paris on Friday that killed more than 120 people.
Following the attacks, the hacker group Anonymous began an online campaign against IS called “OpParis”. In a video posted on Saturday Anonymous said it would aim to “hunt down” IS members and supporters who spread their message over the Internet.
Anonymous says it has been tracking the online activity of IS group supporters for some time as part of a campaign to expose and shut down Twitter accounts used by the group to communicate and spread its message globally.
The government’s increased military funding comes at a time of continued budget cuts at other government operations, with Osborne on Tuesday anouncing seven government departments had agreed to cut day-to-day expenditures by about 21 percent by 2019-20, resulting in £2.5bn of savings.
The departments are those handling energy and climate change, work and pensions, revenue and customs, the Cabinet Office and the offices of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
HMRC announced last week it plans to comply with budget cuts by closing 137 of its 170 offices, consolidating its workforce around digital processes and more online interactions with taxpayers, in a move unions described as “devastating”.
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