UK cybersecurity centre starting operations in March

The agency responsible for UK cyberdefence will recruit people who 'understand the teenage hacker mentality' from within UK intelligence and law enforcement
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor on

The government organisation responsible for UK cyberdefence and, where necessary, cyberattack will begin full operations in March. 

The Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC), based at GCHQ in Cheltenham, will become fully operational on 10 March, Labour peer Baroness Crawley revealed in a written parliamentary answer on Wednesday.

The centre expects to have 19 staff by the 10 March, according to Baroness Crawley.

The Cabinet Office, which administers CSOC, told ZDNet UK on Friday that CSOC would be recruiting people able to understand a "hacker mentality".

"We need people who understand the 'teenage hacker mentality'," said the spokesperson in an email interview. "Of course, any staff who are recruited will need to pass the usual rigorous security vetting."

Staff will be recruited from contributing organisations, which include signal intelligence agency GCHQ, the Cabinet Office, UK intelligence agencies and law enforcement, said the spokesperson.

GCHQ will not be recruiting for CSOC directly, as the organisations will be separate but co-located, the Cabinet Office spokesperson said. CSOC will recruit from existing staff in government agencies.

"CSOC draws its staff from all the contributing organisations," said the spokesperson. "CSOC is an interdepartmental organisation drawing specialist expertise from a range of government departments. Owing to the level of knowledge and experience required, positions for CSOC will not be advertised externally of the contributing government departments."

CSOC primarily will have a defensive role, but as a last resort could be used as a platform to launch a cyberattack, a Whitehall official told ZDNet UK in June.

The Cabinet Office spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Friday that CSOC first "stood up" on 1 September, but that the planned initial staffing capacity will not be reached until 10 March.

"Therefore it is safe to say that CSOC will begin 'business as usual' on that date," said the spokesperson.

The Cabinet Office administers both CSOC and the Office of Cyber Security (OCS), the agency dedicated to protecting the UK's IT infrastructure.

Baroness Crawley said in her written parliamentary answer on Wednesday that OCS had been allocated £130,000 budget for the 2009 to 2010 fiscal year, but that CSOC had not been allocated any budget for the same time period.

The Cabinet Office spokesperson said that the interim office set-up costs for CSOC, until the next financial year, will be paid for out of existing budgets held by GCHQ, the Cabinet Office, and contributing agencies MI5, MI6 and law enforcement.

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