UK Defense Secretary Warns Russia of Offensive Cyber Capabilities

The UK’s Secretary of State for Defence has reportedly warned Russia of retaliatory cyber-attacks if the Kremlin targets British networks following an invasion of Ukraine.

The House of Commons statement from Ben Wallace came as President Putin ordered Russian troops to invade the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine following weeks of military build-up at the border.

“I’m a soldier – I was always taught the best part of defense is offense,” Wallace is reported to have said in the Commons.

The UK’s offensive cyber operations unit, known as the National Cyber Force (NCF), was first mooted in 2018, drawing personnel from GCHQ, the Ministry of Defence, MI6 and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

It’s said to be in line for £5bn in funding before 2030 to help its mission to respond in a “legal, ethical and proportionate” manner to disrupt hostile states, terrorists and criminals threatening the UK’s national security.

At the same time, National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) CEO, Lindy Cameron, urged UK organizations at the weekend to step up their resilience to potential state-sponsored attacks from the east.

She pointed to previous destructive cyber campaigns linked to the Kremlin, including NotPetya, as an example of how localized disputes can have a global impact – whether intentional or not.

“The UK is closer to the crisis in Ukraine than you might think. While 2,000-odd miles separate us physically from their borders with Russia, that distance is much shorter in cyberspace – and attacks targeting Ukraine’s digital infrastructure could be felt here in Britain,” Cameron argued.

“We are urging organizations to accelerate plans to raise their cyber-resilience in the longer term. Cyber-threats will persist and now is the time to build greater resilience for the future. We don’t expect small businesses with no IT team to become cybersecurity experts overnight – the advice we have is proportionate to an organization’s size.”

GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming last week held a roundtable with leaders of UK critical infrastructure (CNI) organizations to discuss further cyber-resilience steps, she revealed.

The news comes after a White House briefing in which deputy national security advisor for cyber, Anne Neuberger, warned that Russia could step-up destructive cyber-attacks to coincide with an invasion of Ukraine

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