The Ministry of Defence has announced a new partnership with its major contractors to bolster the UK’s resistance to cyber warfare.
Unveiling the partnership with the defence industry, minister Philip Dunne described the threat of cyber attacks as a 21st century "gunpowder" moment and said resilience against them was vital to the defence of the nation.
The Defence Cyber Protection Partnership (DCPP) will see organisations including the MoD, listening post GCHQ, and companies such as BAE systems, BT and Lockheed Martin, team up and share intelligence about cyber attacks in a bid to bolster security.
It is hoped that increasing cyber security in the supply chain will help protect the companies and the MoD from attack.
The partnership includes the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the MoD and nine companies: BAE Systems, BT, Cassidian, CGI, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Rolls-Royce, Selex ES and Thales UK.
Dunne, the minister for defence equipment, support and technology, said: "I'm absolutely delighted by the level of commitment shown by the participating companies in helping us to build our national resilience against cyber attack, and I look forward to more of our key contractors coming on board.
"This is a clear demonstration that government and industry can work together – sharing information, experience and expertise – to make sure we do everything we can to protect these critical networks, ensuring that the business of defence is robustly protected."
At a speech at the National Security Summit in central London, he highlighted the importance of defence against cyber attacks.
Citing multimillion-pound investment in the National Cyber Security Programme as evidence of the importance the government is putting on cyber defence, he said: "The discovery of gunpowder by Chinese alchemists had profound consequences for the conduct of battle ever since. Right now we are undergoing our own 'gunpowder' moment."
He said the MoD, as well as other government departments and private companies, were regularly targeted by criminals, foreign intelligence services and other "malicious actors" trying to disrupt operations, corrupt systems and steal information.
"Maintaining our technology edge over our adversaries is vital, and this means a shared interest with industry in protecting the intellectual property which provides that edge, often in the face of sophisticated and widespread cyber espionage," he said. "For many reasons our resilience to cyber attack is vital to the defence of the UK."
He said the DCPP would bring together nine of the MoD's largest contractors to get the "basics right".
"They have committed to: raising awareness of cyber security as an issue, both internally and among their sub-contracting supply chain; exchanging information on threats and vulnerabilities; and working with us to drive up the standards of cyber security throughout the supply chain.
"That also means being frank about how mature and effective our arrangements are, and learning from each other's experiences. It is a vital part of our strategy to secure the defence supply chain."
He added: "The development of cyber technology is the most important strategic factor affecting defence at the moment. For the UK, cyber represents a strength as well as a potential weakness.
"It means our armed forces are among the most technologically advanced in the world, giving them operational advantage over many of their adversaries and making the delivery of military effect more efficient.
"But it also means almost every aspect of our military capability is potentially vulnerable to cyber-attack. Cyber has become a critical domain for our armed forces and they must learn to operate successfully within it."
DCPP chairman Vic Leverett said the partnership was a "critical component" in a co-ordinated approach between government and industry, saying: "The whole is proving to be significantly better than the sum of the parts."
By sharing experience of working under the threat of cyber attack, the DCPP is hoping to identify and put in place actions that will help defend against them, and also provide guidance to organisations in the defence supply chain.
Organisations in the partnership will also share intelligence and expertise on tackling cyber threats with other industry sectors and government through the recently announced national Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership.