philip hammond cyber security defence system

£1.9bn National Cyber Security Strategy will allow the UK to strike back at online enemies

The UK is investing £1.9bn to develop a cyber security defence system that will automatically protect British businesses and citizens online.

Dubbed the National Cyber Security Strategy, the programme is set to be announced by UK Finance Minister Philip Hammond today (pictured).

Hammond will outline how the new funding will help protect Britain in a world where a growing number of connected devices makes both key national infrastructure in energy and transport, and private citizens, more vulnerable.

The £1.9bn investment over the next five years represents a doubling of the funding provided for cyber defence over the 2011–2016 period.

Officials also said the funds will allow Britain to strike back at attacking forces through law enforcement and other online measures to hit back at cyber criminals.

Ministers did not specify which countries posed a cyber threat but the launch of the strategy follows Russia coming under suspicion about involvement in hacks aimed at Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign and warnings from the head of MI5 about Moscow’s actions.

“We must now keep up with the scale and pace of the threats we face. Our new strategy ... will allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked,” Hammond said in the statement.

Under the new cyber plan, the government is also setting up a new Cyber Security Research Institute to bring together university expertise and an Innovation Centre in Cheltenham to help grow cyber start-up companies.

That will run alongside Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre which opened in October at part of its GCHQ security agency and has about 700 staff.

Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer said: “No longer the stuff of spy thrillers and action movies, cyber attacks are a reality and they are happening now.

“Our adversaries are varied – organised criminal groups, ‘hactivists’, untrained teenagers and foreign states. The first duty of the Government is to keep the nation safe.

“Any modern state cannot remain secure and prosperous without securing itself in cyberspace.”

Cyber security expert Joe Hancock with legal firm Mishcon de Reya said: “Cyber-crime is continuously evolving and therefore the issue needs continuous investment – today’s sophisticated attack is tomorrow’s bulk annoyance. Given the threat that cyber-crime poses, it would be ideal to see the government commit to a figure that will be allocated to tackling cyber-crime each year.

“Given that many malicious issues originate abroad, a similar fund from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to encourage other countries to improve their security at source – rather than when they get to the UK – would be welcome.

“This investment is a very positive step, however greater investment in skills is needed in the police force and also in Action Fraud to enable them to take action, or at least direct a civil response. There’s a danger these national defences don’t show a genuine return for individuals and businesses who have been the victims of cyber-crime. Success will be measured by the fraud and crime that remains, rather than what has been prevented.”

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