The UK government is fighting a ‘continuous battle’ against cyber attackers, Defence Secretary Liam Fox warns.
The Ministry of Defence is a “prime target” for would-be infiltrators, and has dealt with more than 1,000 attempts to breach security in 12 months, according to Dr Fox.
Ministers announced last autumn that they were spending £650m to bolster cyber resilience, with the investment focused on protecting key national infrastructure and defence assets.
Cyber threats have been identified by the government as one of the most serious “Tier One” national security challenges alongside global terrorism, major accidents and international military conflict.
Dr Fox, giving details of the dangers in a speech to business leaders in London, said the number of cyber “security incidents” had doubled over the past year.
“There is a continuous battle being waged against us, day in and day out,” he said.
“Our systems are targeted by criminals, foreign intelligence services and other malicious actors seeking to exploit our people, corrupt our systems and steal information.
“To give you an idea of the challenge, last year the MoD blocked and investigated over 1,000 potentially serious attacks. This threat is growing in scale and sophistication - my department is a prime target.”
Dr Fox said the government could not tackle cyber crime on its own and relied on business and the public to help meet the challenges.
When the government awarded defence contracts in future it would take account of potential partners’ cyber safeguards.
“There is no Maginot Line in cyber space as recent high-profile attacks on defence contractors have shown,” he told the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Our national intellectual property in defence and security industries is at risk from a systematic marauding. The reality is that increasingly we will worry about how seriously our suppliers take account of the cyber security threat when we are placing our business.”