From the Cold War to the Code War: UK boosts spending on cyber warfare

We don't need more tanks, we need the latest in cyber warfare, says UK PM David Cameron.

UK prime minister David Cameron said that £800m would be spent on intelligence and surveillance equipment. Image: Frederic Legrand /

The UK is upping its spending on cyber defence as a report warns that the country's increasing reliance on a connected infrastructure could create new opportunities for criminals and terrorists.

Prime minister David Cameron said that £800m will be spent on intelligence and surveillance equipment, which he said "includes the latest in cyber defence technology". The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was unable to provide any breakdown of the spending or detail what projects this would include.

Cameron said: "We are equipping our armed forces for the conflicts of this century, not the last. The threats we face have changed utterly in 30 years — from the clarity of the Cold War to the complex and shifting challenges of today: global terrorism, organised crime, hostage taking, the risk of nuclear proliferation, cyber attack, energy security.

"It is not massed tanks on the European mainland we need, but the latest in cyber warfare, unmanned aircraft technology and special forces capability... in the 21st century, you cannot defend the realm from the white cliffs of Dover."

Read this

U.K. center to be global cybersecurity hub

"In cyberspace, we are all interdependent and often only as secure as the weakest link," says government.

Read More

The UK's National Security Strategy lists cyber attacks as a 'tier one' threat to national security, alongside international terrorism and warns the threat from cyber attacks "is real and growing".

In addition, the newly published Global Strategic Trends report by the MoD's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre sets the context for defence and security out as far as 2045, and warns: "As more of our work and social activities depend on a richly interconnected information and communications network (which may, in places, be extremely vulnerable to attack) there could be more opportunities for criminals and terrorists to have a greater impact on our day-to-day lives."

But, unsurprisingly, it's hard to work out how much the government is already spending on cyber defence projects. The Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010 allocated £650m over four years for a national cyber security programme, with another £210m added after the 2013 spending review for 2015-16.

On the cyber-offensive side, defence secretary Philip Hammond told the Conservative party conference last year: "Simply building cyber defences is not enough. As in other domains, we also have to deter... Britain will build a dedicated capability to counter-attack in cyber-space and, if necessary, to strike in cyber space as part of our full-spectrum military capability."

Spending on this project could reach £500m over the next few years, according to one report. On top of this, other agencies such as GCHQ are also involved with cyber warfare projects.

Related stories