Cyber attacks are recognised as a serious threat to the security of the country, but just how much money will be spent on digital defences remains unclear
Prime minister David Cameron has announced a £1.1 billion spending package for the UK’s defence industries, which includes funding to tackle cyber crime and cyber terrorism.
There are no details on how large a portion of the funds will be spent on securing UK’s networks and infrastructure against hacker attacks.
The announcement was made at Farnborough Air Show, a week-long trade exhibition for the aerospace and defence industries, which will open to the public for the final two days.
“There are threats that you cannot defend against from the White Cliffs of Dover,” said the prime minister at the event, as reported by the BBC. “This money will help keep our country safe and stop terrorism at source before it reaches our country.”
Cameron said that the funds will be used to combat ‘modern threats’ and ‘unseen enemies’. Some of the money will be spent on a new ice patrol ship – the HMS Protector – and the development of a new radar system for Typhoon jets.
The package will also help keep the Sentinel spy-plane in the air until 2018, and fund the creation of an unmanned submarine at the £4m Centre for Maritime Intelligent Systems in Portsmouth.
Most of the £1.1 billion will fund work on new intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance tools. This includes software and hardware that can help protect the country against cyber treats – although the prime minister didn’t make the distinction between state-sponsored hackers and average cyber criminals.
“The enemy may be seen or unseen. So as the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010 made clear, it is not massed tanks on the European mainland we need, but the latest in cyber warfare, unmanned aircraft technology and Special Forces capability,” Cameron wrote in The Telegraph.
“That is what we are investing in today. The majority of the money – £800 million – is being spent on intelligence and surveillance equipment. It includes the latest in cyber defence technology and surveillance aircraft that can fly over areas like the Horn of Africa, identifying any terror threats to the UK and our allies.”
The investment comes as the government prepares to cut the numbers of regular army personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020.
The announcement has been welcomed by the UK software industry. “It is great that the government acknowledges that cyber attacks are often used as a weapon in the modern world and this fund should significantly help to predict future attacks and mitigate the risks,” commented Rob Cotton, CEO at global information assurance firm NCC Group.
“We’d like to think that there will be a time in the near future when cyber crime is thought of as on a par with other criminal activity. There is still a way to go until businesses and the general public are as aware of the warning signs and impact of cyber threats as they are with other types of crime. The more we can address this then the more real chance we will have of preventing future attacks that can be costly on a national level.”
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