Defence Secretary commits £22m to fund Army cyber operations centres

Graphic depicting cyber warfare as a soldier works in a room full of computers

The government has pledged 22 million to fund the creation of cyber operations centres for the British Army in order to boost the military's offensive cyber capabilities.

The number of centres and their locations has yet to be confirmed, but their construction is slated to start next year with the centres commencing their operations at some point in the early 2020s.

"These new cyber centres will allow the Army and Defence to transform the way we use data, at speed, so that we can compete with our adversaries in a way fit for the 21st Century," said Major General Tom Copinger-Symes.

"Combining artificial intelligence with our military analysts will help us better understand threats and exploit opportunities, in turn enabling us to get the truth out much more rapidly, quashing the noise of disinformation from our enemies."

The government has already invested heavily in the nation's cyber security with its 1.9 billion National Cyber Security Strategy, which has so far seen the creation of the National Cyber Security Centre and the Defence Cyber School. The former combines government, intelligence agencies and the private sector under a single security banner, while the latter is aimed at training future cyber security experts.

Offensive cyber capabilities will be the focus of the Army's cyber operations centres, which will draw upon a range of sources to power those compatibilities, including tapping into national intelligence and open source data.

The centres are expected to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will not only disseminate information and dispel false data, but also provide cyber powers for overseas operations and humanitarian efforts. The centres will also be designed to tackle emerging cyber threats and defend UK communications on British soil.

"We know all about the dangers. Whether the attacks come from Russia, China or North Korea. Whether they come from hacktivists, criminals or extremists. Whether its malware or fake news. Cyber can bring down our national infrastructure and undermine our democracy,"

"It's time to pay more than lip service to cyber. We must convince our adversaries their advances simply aren't worth the cost. Cyber enemies think they can act with impunity," said Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who announced the funding. "We must show them they can't. That we are ready to respond at a time and place of our choosing in any domain, not just the virtual world."

Mordaunt noted that threats could be targeted at national infrastructure and "undermine" the country's democracy.

"We need coherent cyber offense as well as defence," said Mordaunt.

This ambition is all well and good, but the government will be under intense pressure to ensure its investments are effective. The National Audit Office recently slammed the Cabinet Office for mismanaging the National Cyber Security Programme by failing to meet objectives and running a budget that's wasn't properly calculated.

Roland Moore-Colyer

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