UK To Base Its ‘National Cyber Force’ In Lancashire

The headquarters of the National Cyber Force, is to be located in Samlesbury, Lancashire,the government has confirmed.

Samlesbury is a village in the north west of England, located between Blackbrun and Preston, and the announcement revealed the NCF centre will apparently be based near the production facility of BAE Systems at a Second World War airfield in Samlesbury.

It was back in February 2020 when it was first reported that the United Kingdom was readying the official launch of a specialist cyber force that will target terror groups and hostile nation states.

National Cyber Force

However the cyber force of hackers was only officially confirmed by the government in November 2020, when it officially launched the National Cyber Force (NCF) – a partnership between the British military and GCHQ.

“The permanent site of the NCF will be established in Samlesbury, cementing the North-West region’s position as the cyber centre of the UK,” said the government.

“GCHQ already have an office in Manchester and the city is Europe’s fastest growing major tech cluster, with more than 15 percent of Manchester’s population employed by the digital, creative and technology sector.”

The government said the NCF will combine personnel from intelligence, cyber and security agency GCHQ, the MoD, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), under one unified command for the first time.

Its remit is to carry out offensive cyber operations, which “can disrupt hostile state activities, terrorists and criminals threatening the UK’s national security – from countering terror plots to conducting military operations.”

Samlesbury location

“The National Cyber Force located in Samlesbury will embrace exciting new offensive cyber technologies and provide thousands of highly skilled jobs and expertise to the North West,” said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

“I am hugely proud and enthusiastic to see this happen, not only will it provide a catalyst for investment, but also see our levelling up agenda bring economic stimulus and tangible benefits to this region,” said Wallace.

The move was also welcomed by the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

“The National Cyber Force will help confront aggressive behaviour from malign actors, and demonstrate that Britain is investing in next-generation defence capability to protect our people and help our friends counter cyber threats. It sends a powerful message to our allies and adversaries alike,” said Truss.

Growing capabilities

The United Kingdom has been steadily growing its cyber capabilities over the past decade.

In June 2011 for example the UK Ministry of Defence created a joint force command unit, that integrated the MoD’s cyber warfare and military intelligence units.

A few months prior to that in May 2011, the British government also acknowledged it had begun work on a “toolbox” of offensive cyber-weapons to complement its existing cyber defensive capabilities.

Then in 2013, the MoD began to allow convicted hackers to join the UK’s Joint Cyber Reserve Unit (JCRU).

This past decade has seen the government continue to expand the UK’s cyber-security forces, including the foundation of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which operates under GCHQ (based in Cheltenham) but the NCSC is based in London.

Indeed, between 2011 and 2016, the Government allocated £860m to the National Cyber Security Programme, and for the five years from 2016 to 2021, the Government “has in recognition of the threat – significantly increased funding and allocated £1.9bn for the new National Cyber Security Strategy.”

High-end capabilities

And with the online threats continuing to grow, so has the government’s cyber offensive capabilities.

In September 2018 the Government said it would expand the UK’s offensive cyber-war capabilities by approximately fourfold with a new cyber warfare unit.

The exact nature of the UK’s offensive cyber weaponry is a closely guarded secret, but in a submission to a report December 2017 by parliament’s intelligence and security committee, GCHQ said the capabilities of its cyber unit extended to “the high end of counter state offensive cyber capabilities”.

“We actually over-achieved and delivered (almost double the number of) capabilities (we were aiming for),” GCHQ said at the time.

In April 2018 the government revealed it had carried out a cyber-attack on the ISIL or Islamic State terrorist group.

The UK’s National Cyber Force is thought to contain an estimated 500 specialists (hackers).

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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