UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has appealed to Britain's top IT experts to join the newly established Joint Cyber Reserve Unit to help protect the UK's computer networks from cyber-attacks.
The Ministry of Defence is seeking to recruit hundreds of part-time specialists across the armed forces to bolster Britain's capability to counter cyber threats or even "to strike in cyber space".
The recruitment campaign, starting next month, aims to attract not only regular personnel leaving full-time roles and existing reservists with the right skills but also experts who wouldn't otherwise consider joining up.
"In response to the growing cyber threat, we are developing a full-spectrum military cyber capability, including a strike capability, to enhance the UK's range of military capabilities," Mr Hammond said as he prepared to address the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
"Increasingly, our defence budget is being invested in high-end capabilities such as cyber and intelligence and surveillance assets to ensure we can keep the country safe.”
The prospect of a cyber reserve force was first outlined in December last year and in July Hammond announced that computer experts looking to join the reserves to help fight cyber terrorism would be allowed to avoid fitness testing undergone by standard recruits.
The MoD said the terms and conditions of service offered in a pilot recruitment process "will recognise the unique attributes of individuals who might otherwise not be attracted to, or able to serve in the reserve forces".
Anyone applying would be subject to security vetting, officials pointed out, as well as citizenship and residency requirements and a commitment to take part in at least a minimum level of annual training.
In his speech, Mr Hammond outlined the plans for a defensive and offensive cyber capability.
"As in other domains of warfare, we also have to deter so I can announce today that Britain will build a dedicated capability to counter attack in cyberspace and, if necessary, to strike in cyberspace as part of our full spectrum military capability,” he said.
"We will form a joint cyber reserve unit so IT specialists in industry can work alongside regular military specialists in this vital national defence effort."
The newly established Joint Cyber Reserve will represent a significant increase in the number of reservists employed in cyber and information assurance. The unit's members will work closely together with the Joint Cyber Unit (Corsham), the Joint Cyber Unit (Cheltenham) and other information assurance units across Defence.