ISIS online affiliates trying to hack airlines, hospitals and nuclear power plants says UK Chancellor
UK Chancellor George Osborne today said that the ISIS terrorists are trying to launch deadly cyber-attacks on the country’s important national infrastructure, including hospitals, airlines and even Britain’s electricity supply.
“We need to establish deterrents in cyber space. We need to not just defend ourselves against attacks but rather to dissuade people and states from targetting us in the first place,” Osborne said.
In the first ever speech by a Chancellor at spy base Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), he also unveiled a £1.9 billion spending boost for online security by 2020 to combat their efforts.
“We are building our own offensive cyber capability.” He also said that “the stakes could hardly be higher.”
“If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost,” he said.
The announcement comes in the wake of the Paris attacks on Friday carried out by by the extremist group also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, wherein at least 129 people have been declared dead and dozens more are fighting for their lives in Paris. However, Osborne said that the decision to boost cyber defence funding had been taken before the attacks.
“We must act as one, just as out enemies see us as one,” he told an audience of intelligence agents, who he called “unsung heroes.”
While ISIS likes to proclaim that its Cyber Caliphate and other similar pro-ISIS hacking groups are waging cyberwar on the west, the truth is that, to date, it has had very limited success, something Osborne recognized in his speech.
“ISIS’s murderous brutality has a strong digital element. At a time when so many others are using the Internet to enhance freedom and give expression to liberal values and creativity, they are using it for evil,” Osborne said. “Let’s be clear. ISIS are already using the Internet for hideous propaganda purposes; for radicalization, for operational planning too. They have not been able to use it to kill people yet by attacking our infrastructure through cyber attack. But we know they want it and are doing their best to build it.”
On Monday, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the creation of 1,900 additional positions in the UK’s intelligence organizations (MI5, MI6 and GCHQ) to help tackle ISIL’S terror plots – a 15 percent increase in intelligence agency staff.
The government’s total spending on cyber security will rise to £3.2 billion despite cuts to other spending. Osborne defended the expenditure ahead of an expected announcement of fresh overall spending cuts next week.
“The internet has made us richer, freer, connected and informed in ways its founders could not have dreamt of. It has also become a vector of attack, espionage, crime and harm.
“It is right that we choose to invest in our cyber defences even in a time when we must cut other budgets.”
Osborne said that it was important for Britain to be able to launch “counter-attacks” on hackers, terror groups, rogue states and criminal gangs in cyber space in anyway it chooses and will commit resources over the next five years to developing deterrents.
“We will defend ourselves and we will also take the fight to you,” he said. “Impunity no longer exists.”
Cameron has also announced £2 billion of extra spending to the SAS and special forces as the country looks to bolster itself against expected increase in threats from ISIS and other terror groups.
Mr Osborne detailed a “bold, comprehensive” next generation national cyber security plan for Britain which includes:
* A dedicated force to ensure faster and more effective responses to major online attacks
* Possible cooperation between Internet service providers, with help from the government, to fend off malware attacks and block bad addresses used against British internet users
* A new institute to train coders, drawing on “deep expertise” of experts at GCHQ
* A £20 million competition to open an institute of coding for next generation of coders
* A major programme for 14-17 year olds modelled on a successful Israeli programme to find “hidden talent” in classrooms
* Two cyber innovation centres where start-ups can gain support in early stages
He said the plan will not provide “hermetic protection” from cyber attacks but will make Britain one of the best protected countries in the world.