Britain faces Russian and Chinese cyber-attack

By Alice cannet

Russia and China have already launched cyber attacks against the UK government, it emerged today.

The revelation came in the UK’s first cyber security strategy, published this morning, which found online threats from criminals, terrorists and hostile countries are on the rise.

Security minister Lord West confirmed that the UK government had been facing cyber attacks from Russia and China and warned that core businesses, the government and financial markets could be targeted.

Published alongside the national security strategy, the move indicates that the government is increasingly becoming aware of the need to protect computer users from cyber threats.

Launched by Lord West, the strategy intends to defend government secrets, businesses and individuals from cyber fraud, identity theft and e-crime.

Mr West said: “We know that various state actors are very interested in cyber warfare. The terrorist aspect of this is the least (concern), but it is developing.”

“We know terrorists use the internet for radicalisation and things like that at the moment, but there is a fear they will move down that path (of cyber attacks).

“As their ability to use the web and the net grows, there will be more opportunity for these attacks.”

He denied rumours that government information had been obtained by hackers who broke into government systems but conceded that the government had its own cyber attack capability.

“It would be silly to say that we don’t have any capability to do offensive work from Cheltenham, and I don’t think I should say any more than that.”

He added that GCHQ had employed former “naughty boys” in their listening post at Cheltenham but denied hiring any “ultra, ultra criminals”.

“You need youngsters who are deep into this stuff… If they have been slightly naughty boys, very often they really enjoy stopping other naughty boys,” he said.

A new office of cyber security in the Cabinet will be set up as part of the national strategy to co-ordinate policy and deal with ethical and legal issues and international relations.

Another new body, the cyber security operations centre (CSOC) will be created and based at GCHQ.

“CSOC’s aim will be to identify in real time what type of cyber attacks are taking place, where they come from and what can be done to stop them”, according to a government security official.

Speaking about cyber threats from other countries in2007, Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5 cited Russia and China and warned that: “a number of countries continue to devote considerable time and energy trying to steal our sensitive technology on civilian and military projects, and trying to obtain political and economic intelligence at our expense.

“They do not only use traditional methods to collect intelligence but increasingly deploy sophisticated technical attacks, using the internet to penetrate computer networks.”

The government has said it did not know of any critical data which had been stolen but said that UK businesses had lost significant pieces of information.