Prepare for offensive cyberwar, say MPs

The ISC report runs to 80 pages and 250 paragraphs, but interest primarily focuses on just two paragraphs: #109 and #110. The first confirms that “that Russia and China are suspected of carrying out the majority of electronic [espionage] attacks.” The second owns that while defense against attacks must be a priority, “we believe that there are also significant opportunities for our intelligence and security Agencies and military which should be exploited in the interests of UK national security.”

Five examples are given. “Interfering with the systems of those trying to hack into UK networks.” Accessing external networks for both exploitation (intelligence gathering) and disruption to hamper the activity of enemies (but undetected, or at least ‘without attribution’) is also mentioned. For the latter, Stuxnet is specifically cited, although the report hastens to add, “not involving the UK agencies.”

The final two examples include using cyber techniques and capabilities in order to deliver information operations, and “the destruction of data, networks or systems in support of armed conflict.” The result is a remarkably gung-ho call to arms – but one that worries many in the security industry.

“Caution must be taken to prevent an unnecessary cyber war from escalating as a result of knee-jerk actions against supposed hackers,” comments Paul Davis, director of Europe at FireEye. “It is important,” he adds, “that a well-thought out strategy is put in place to ensure that... networks are constantly protected, rather than impulsively picking fights with an invisible enemy without concern for the long-term ramifications.”

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