Great Britain has launched a new cyber security command center to help combat network intruders and forge offensive attacks against opponents.
The country has hired a number of former hackers to help staff the new Cyber Security Operations Center, which will begin functioning in September.
“You need youngsters who are deep into this stuff…. If they have been slightly naughty boys, very often they really enjoy stopping other naughty boys,” said Lord West, who was appointed Britain’s first cyber security minister.
Tom Watson, a former Cabinet Office minister, told the BBC that the center was needed because there was a lot of “state-sponsored hacking of key U.K. information networks on an industrial scale and we have to transform GCHQ into a spy school for geeks who are more cunning than their Chinese counterparts.”
The new cyber security center will be based in Cheltenham at Britain’s famed secret eavesdropping facility known as GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).
GCHQ, also known as “the doughnut” for its circular layout, achieved notoriety in the 1980s when news reports revealed that it was part of the global satellite surveillance operation known as Echelon run by intelligence agencies in Britain, the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The controversial program created a rift among its partner countries when accusations surfaced that the U.S. was using the eavesdropping operation to conduct industrial espionage in England and other parts of Europe and sharing the information with American companies.
Lord West referenced the controversy obliquely when a reporter asked him about the possibility that Britain might use its cyber warfare capabilities to conduct electronic espionage. How could the U.K. criticize other countries for using electronic espionage, if it used such tactics itself, he was asked.
“I think that coordinated attacks on a regular basis to try and get industrial information from a nation is wrong,” he replied.
In addition to the cyber security center at GCHQ, the government is also launching an Office of Cyber Security to protect Britain’s IT infrastructure, conduct cyber offensive strategies and attacks and serve as liaison between government and private industry on cyber security matters.
An anonymous government official told ZDNet that offensive DDoS attacks will be part of its repertoire, though not its first response.
“We will have a whole range of offensive capabilities, including distributed denial-of-service,” said the official. “DDoS is not a first response — we definitely need graduated responses. . . . We don’t want to get into cyber-warfare, but it’s not reasonable to sit back.”
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