UK's cyberdefence centre gets later start date

The Cyber Security Operations Centre will start operations at the end of the month, instead of in mid-March, as Parliament had been told
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The government's cyberattack response centre, charged with protecting Britain's critical IT infrastructure, will go into full operation later than MPs were told.

The Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC), based near GCHQ in Cheltenham, was slated to start up on 10 March, according to a written parliamentary answer given by labour whip Baroness Crawley published in Hansard in November. She wrote that by that date, the centre would have reached its initial operating capacity of 19 staff members.

However, a spokesman for the Office of Cyber Security told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the official start is actually at the end of the month.

"Lord West, who is the lead Government Minister for cyber-issues, has recently confirmed that the development of CSOC is on schedule to meet its initial operating capacity date at the end of March," said the spokesman. "There have been no delays to this target. The date of March 10, mentioned in Hansard, has never been the IOC date."

Asked about the discrepancy in start dates, the spokesman said that the centre had always been scheduled to come into operation at the end of March and that an error had been made in the written answer or its publication.

The CSOC was set up in September in conjunction with the Office of Cyber Security, the government computer security agency. It is primarily responsible for co-ordinating the defence of critical IT systems, such as those at utilities or financial institutions. As well as resisting attempts to breach these networks, the agency will also conduct cyberattacks on those posing a threat to the security of the critical infrastructure, the Cabinet Office has said.

The spokesman added that the initial operating capacity of CSOC is actually 15 staff, and that number had been reached. The recruitment plan for CSOC was to pull employees from existing staff in government agencies, the Cabinet Office has said.

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