MoD recruits hundreds of cyber experts

The Ministry of Defence has said it will recruit hundreds of experts to form a Defence Cyber Operations Group, which will develop cyberattack and defence capabilities

The Ministry of Defence has said it is looking to recruit hundreds of cyber experts.

The experts will form the Defence Cyber Operations Group, which is tasked with integrating cybersecurity into conventional land, sea and air operations. "We will grow a cadre of dedicated cyber experts to support our own and allied cyber-operations and secure our vital networks," the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

The government believes that laws surrounding war are applicable to cyberattacks. An MoD source told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that the MoD wanted to develop its cyberattack and defensive capabilities on a broad front, including tactics and strategy. Tactics may include the use of software, hardware and attack techniques.

"The law of armed conflict, we believe, does apply to cyber-space," Foreign and Commonwealth Office cyber-policy director Tim Dowse told the EastWest Institute Cyber Security Summit in London on Wednesday.

Dowse told ZDNet UK that the military needed the resources to be able to deal with cyberattacks, but declined to say which tools the military would use, or how the government would legally define 'cyber-weapon'.

"Defining weaponry is missing the point," Dowse said. "In conflict in cyber-space we focus less on the means rather than what will be created. If a cyberattack causes damage or loss of life, we have to look at that when we focus on the issues."

Attribution of cyberattacks

It is difficult to attribute the source of cyberattacks, as commands can be issued through proxy servers and thousands of compromised machines can be harnessed to launch attacks without their owners being aware their machines are infected. Dowse, a non-proliferation expert, dismissed the problem of attribution.

"In an armed conflict, issues of attribution are less likely to arise," Dowse said.

Military forces in both the UK and the US have said that they are developing cyber-weapons, while the US has said a cyberattack could be taken as an act of war, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Clearly we are getting into a cyber-technology race, from a warfare point of view, with both defensive and offensive capabilities.

– Sir Michael Rake, BT

Former US secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that governments need to agree 'rules of the road'.

"Cyber can be used to attack, to defend, to obtain information, and to preserve secrecy," Chertoff told ZDNet UK. "The challenge for cybersecurity strategy is the need to reconcile various functions."

BT chairman Sir Michael Rake told the conference that the world was in danger of entering into a cyber arms race.

"Cyber-warfare can bring a state to its knees with no military interaction whatsoever," Rake said. "Clearly we are getting into a cyber-technology race, from a warfare point of view, with both defensive and offensive capabilities."

World war in cyber-space

Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said there was a danger that the next world war could start in cyber-space.

"Unfortunately, the next world war, if it were to take place, will take place in cyber-space," Toure said. He later said the world needed agreements in place to mitigate the risk of war.

"We need to be sure people build a cyber-defensive capability rather than cyberattack," Toure told ZDNet UK. "We need a global code of conduct for cybersecurity."

Lord Reid, chairman of the Security and Resilience Studies Centre at University College London, told ZDNet UK that traditional thinking about defence did not apply in cyber-space.

"The fundamental challenge for us is to understand the nature of the new cyber-environment," Lord Reid said. "The cyber-environment is not a change in quantity, it's a qualitative change."

Reid said the Security and Resilience Studies Centre would publish a report on 29 June to address the issue of cyber-war.

"You can patch up laws, organisations and technology but, unless the first step is taken with intellectual understanding, all will be temporary expedience," said Reid. "Like the weather, cyber-space will not be controlled."

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