UK ‘planning joint cyber defence force’

Written by Hannah McGrath

The UK is reportedly boosting its cyber defence capabilities with an offensive cyber force of up to 2,000 people.

The Ministry of Defence and GCHQ, the government’s intelligence headquarters, are to join forces on the cyber defence unit to combat the threat from Russia and other malicious actors, Sky News reported.

The new force is expected to be announced soon, and comes after the UK used military cyber weapons to combat Islamic State for the first time in April.

Sky News reported that the force, which will receive £250 million in funding, will be made up of GCHQ officials, military personnel and contractors.

Responding to the report, general Sir Richard Barrons, a former commander of the Joint Forces Command, which oversees military cyber defence activity, said that enhancing the UK’s capability was paramount in the face of the growing threat of Russia.

"By adopting offensive cyber techniques in the UK we are levelling the playing field and providing new means of both deterring and punishing states that wish to do us harm," he said.

GCHQ and the MoD are yet to decide where the cyber force will be based, but it is understood that it will be in separate location from the Cheltenham HQ of GCHQ or the permanent military headquarters in Northwood.

It also emerged that at the start of 2016, former prime minister David Cameron had instructed the spy agencies to target IS media operations and also joined forces with the US on a number of secret cyber operations, including one called Glowing Symphony.

According to Sky News, they used malware to block access to data and planted fake news stories, as well as targeting IS finances.