Britain is prepared to launch military retaliation including sending in troops and airstrikes against foreign state hackers targeting the UK, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has warned.
Speaking at the Cyber 2017 Chatham House think tank conference, Fallon said Britain would respond to any strike on its systems with “air, land, sea or cyber” attacks. He said deterrence would be strengthened, while the authorities would “hunt down” those suspected of attacks.
“We’re using our rising budget to invest our £178 billion [US$228 billion] in full spectrum capability, from carriers to Ajax armored vehicles, fifth generation F35 to the latest UAVs, signalling to potential cyber strikers that the price of an online attack could invite a response from any domain,” Fallon said.
Offensive cyberattacks from Britain are beginning to have a major effect on degrading Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) ability, Fallon added, according to the Sun.
“We now have the skills to expose cyber criminals, to hunt them down and to prosecute them.
“We have no evidence yet as to who was behind the attack on Parliament, it is too early to speculate what kind of actor was involved,” Fallon added, referring to a cyberattack on the UK Parliament last week.
“When we know, we have got to consider how to respond,” the minister added, warning that Britain could “respond in kind to any assault at a time of our choosing.”
Fallon said “aggressor states like Russia” are “working overtime to discolor our democracy.” He claimed Russia launches around 60 attacks on Britain’s government IT, infrastructure and businesses every month.
Fallon said a cyberattack could fall foul of NATO’s Article V covering mutual defense, which states that an attack on one member state is an attack on all.
He also claimed that “Parliament itself coming under a sustained and determined cyberattack” should be a “wake up call to us all” about cyber defenses and the importance of strong passwords.
“Last Friday we saw the UK hit by yet another cyberattack, this time directed against our parliamentary IT systems.
“Investigations so far have found that the hackers were attempting to carry out a sustained and determined attack on all parliamentary user accounts in an attempt to identify weak passports to gain access to users’ emails.”
Fallon also revealed that the government is “building up a new 21st Century Cyber Corps, a band of expert volunteers, leaders in the industry, who are going to advise us on how to keep ahead in the cyber space race.”