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December 3, 2012

UK to get ‘Cyber Reserve’ defence force

Cyber experts will help armed forces to fight online attacks

By Steve Evans

The Ministry of Defence is to set up a Cyber Reserve, a group of computer experts that will help the armed forces protect the UK from online threats.

Announced by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude on the first anniversary of the UK Cyber Security Strategy, the group aims to, "draw on the wider talent and skills of the nation in the cyber field," Maude said in a statement.

"We are constantly examining new ways to harness and attract the talents of the cyber security specialists that are needed for critical areas of work," Maude said.

While further details will be revealed next year, Maude did add: "The Services will engage additional experts to support their work in defending against the growth in cyber threats. These will be supporting roles to the Joint Cyber Units across the full spectrum of cyber and information assurance capability."

Jarno Limnell, director of cybersecurity at Stonesoft, welcomed the introduction of a Cyber Reserve force, more should be done.

"To succeed in the cyber domain is not merely a question of defence, it is also about prevention, in order to reduce the effectiveness of an adversary’s cyber-attack," he said. "Creating cyber defence capabilities and resilience are fairly easy. But they are not enough. Deterrence is also needed, that is, the capabilities and policies to convince others not to launch a cyber-attack against you."

Maude added the government is looking to establish a UK National CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team), which will "improve national co-ordination of cyber incidents and act as a focus point for international sharing of technical information on cyber security."

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In addition to the UK National CERT, the new Cyber Incident Response scheme set up recently in pilot mode, will become fully operational. "It is an HMG quality-assured service, provided by industry, that organisations can turn to for assistance when they have suffered a cyber security incident," Maude explained.

The announcements were made a year after the introduction of the UK Cyber Security Strategy. Maude said a "great deal" has been achieved since then but more work needs to be done if it is to fulfil its stated goals.

"One year after the Strategy’s publication a great deal has already been accomplished in our aim of protecting UK interests in cyberspace and making the UK one of the safest places to do business online," he said. "This is not an issue for Government alone. Industry has the potential to lose the most by not rising to these challenges so together we must work to address cyber threats which could undermine our economic growth and prosperity."

Martin Sutherland, Managing Director of BAE Systems Detica, said all parties must work together to ensure the progress made over the last year continues.

"We’ve reached an interesting juncture in terms of the development of the UK’s Cyber Security Strategy. The Strategy is in implementation phase right now and could arguably be more unified in terms of ownership of countering the threat," he said. "However, what is most important is that we maintain impetus and forward momentum. Cyber space is still a dangerous place where the threat is evolving and asymmetric and attackers are still able to act with enormously more agility than defenders."

"When we look back in five years’ time we will see that the government’s strategy has provided a catalyst for a series of innovative and useful activities, particularly around how industry can respond to and protect itself from cyber incidents – most notably the recent Cyber Incident Response Scheme announced by GCHQ. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go before we can say that we are successfully countering cyber threats," he added.

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