UK chancellor warns of increasing cyberattacks

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond on Tuesday (November 01) spoke about rising cyber capability of “hostile foreign actors” and said the country must be able to retaliate in kind against cyber-attacks by enhancing its offensive cyber capabilities to combat hackers who may soon target British critical infrastructure including airports and power grids.

While announcing the plan of spending £1.9bn on cyber security, Hammond made it clear that the UK will “strike back” if it comes under cyber-attack.

Indicating over the internet based lives, Hammond warned that if the country does not respond to cyber attacks, it leave the nation in darkness and “we would be left with the impossible choice of turning the other cheek and ignoring the devastating consequences or resorting to a military response.”

The speech which was made during the launch of the UK’s latest National Cybersecurity strategy (2016-2020) also addressed ways to tackle cyber-scammers and defend businesses, government and citizens from online threats including state-sponsored hackers.

The cyber security strategy and the funds will be used to enlarge specialist police units, train cybersecurity experts invest in the latest cybercrime protection technology and help establish a so-called ‘Cybersecurity Research Institute’.

The speech also elaborated on how the UK government – and British intelligence agencies MI5 and GCHQ – will now develop a “fully functioning and operational cyber counter-attack” capability.

Due to the risks that internet has posed in everyday life ministers had deemed cyber threats to the UK to be as serious as the risk from terrorism in a defence and security review last year.

A rare intervention from the head of MI5 warning of aggressive Russian behaviour in cyberspace is a sign of government grappling with how to respond to a changing threat.

Though the countries which posed cyber risk were not specified but the launch of the strategy follows Russia coming under suspicion about involvement in hacks aimed at Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign.

The cyber security strategy itself names “Russian-language organised criminal groups (OCGs) in Eastern Europe” as a major source of “fraud, theft and extortion” cyber attacks against the UK.

UK is at a risk from a handful of countries presently but many other nations are developing sophisticated cyber programmes to pose a threat to the UK in near future.

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