‘New Domain in Battle’: UK Touts New Cyber Warfare Centre to Stage ‘Offensive Attacks’
15:50 GMT 03.10.2021 (Updated: 15:24 GMT 28.05.2023)
The new cyber warfare centre will reportedly be mentioned by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as an example of London’s “levelling up” agenda during his upcoming speech at the 2021 Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced the construction of the National Cyber Force headquarters in northwestern England’s Samlesbury to launch possible “offensive” cyber attacks against unspecified “hostile” nations.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Wallace referred to “some foreign states” waging cyber warfare on the UK “every single day”, adding that Britain has “a right under international law and among ourselves to defend ourselves”.
He promised his country would defend itself from cyber warfare “if that warfare is dangerous, corrupting, or damaging”.
“And one of the ways you can do that is to dismantle the tools that are used against you. For example, if a hostile state is using a server to deploy ransomware against you, or spyware, or using disinformation, you could use offensive cyber to deal with those servers”, the defence secretary told the newspaper.
When asked if the National Cyber Force will be capable of attacking a hostile country’s critical infrastructure, Wallace said “it would be a dereliction of duty if these capabilities weren't on our shelves”.
“Who knows where we'll be in 20 years' time, we haven't had a tier one cyber attack yet, a catastrophic cyber attack”, the defence secretary added.
Wallace insisted that the construction of the new digital warfare, which is worth £5 ($6.7) billion, would put the UK “at the front” of countries capable of staging offensive cyber attacks. He argued that Britain “will be one of the very, very few nations in the world with that scale”.
The defence secretary described cyber as “a new domain in battle”, stressing the importance of the UK acting against potential adversaries in this field.
According to him, the impact of the new cyber warfare centre can be likened to the location of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham in the 1950s. “Cheltenham was a small country town and look what it has done. That's what we mean by levelling up”, he said.
Raab Wants Coalition to Tackle 'Malicious Cyber Attacks'
Wallace’s remarks come a few months after then-UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for a wider coalition to respond to states complicit in "malicious cyber attacks", as he gave his keynote cybersecurity speech at Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre's (NCSC) CYBERUK conference.
Touching upon the threats facing the West in cyberspace, Raab accused Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran of working to "sabotage, steal, and ransack the international system".
26 September 2020, 13:05 GMT
This was preceded by General Patrick Sanders, commander of the UK Strategic Command, claiming that China was a "chronic threat" to the UK amid a record number of cyber-attacks targeting Britain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a separate development, last year saw a report commissioned for the British Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, which claimed that Russia's cyber-capability remains a "matter of grave concern" and poses an "immediate and urgent threat" to the UK's national security. The Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded by stressing that the report contained "groundless accusations" that he underscored could not be "substantiated".
He was echoed by Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrei Klein, who noted that Moscow had never interfered in the UK's political processes and instead seeks to find common ground to improve bilateral relations.
Ties between the two are still at an all-time low after former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in March 2018 in the UK city of Salisbury.
London points the finger at Moscow, claiming it played a role in the incident, while Russia denies the allegations. The country’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said back in May 2019 that the Skripal case was falling apart due to a lack of any evidence incriminating Russia.