Hague sends enemies warning
Digital 'arms race' grips globe
GCHQ creates hi-tech weapons
By TOM NEWTON DUNN, Political Editor
BRITAIN is prepared to strike first to defend against a cyber attack from an enemy state, William Hague declares today.
The Foreign Secretary’s warning to the world is the first clear signal that the UK has developed new weapons for the online battlefield.
In an exclusive interview, he also revealed the globe was in the grip of a new and financially-crippling “arms race in cyber space”.
And he said he could not guarantee Britain would be able to repel a major cyber assault on the nation’s essential infrastructure — including water works, power plants and the air traffic control system.
Laying down the gauntlet, Mr Hague said: “We will defend ourselves in every way we can, not only to deflect but to prevent attacks that we know are taking place.”
But he gave no clues on the make-up of Britain’s new electronic arsenal, saying: “The rest of the world will have to guess.”
Mr Hague set about the “ramping up of cyber defences” when, for the first time, the threat of attack was ranked Tier One in a defence review.
The Government is now pouring an extra £650million into developing deterrents to hostile viruses which are being produced almost constantly.
The money is being split between the nation’s eavesdropping spies at GCHQ in Cheltenham and the MoD, which has set up a Defence Cyber Operations Group.
Mr Hague said: “We are trying to prevent an arms race in cyber space. Given that the internet changes every day and billions more people will have access to it over the coming years, the potential for that arms race to grow and go out of control is enormous.”
Speaking from his office overlooking St James’s Park, Mr Hague warned it was only a matter of time before a national terrorist enemy tried to breach Britain’s online defence wall.
He warned: “There is no 100 per cent defence against this, just as there isn’t against any other form of attack. We have to defend critical national infrastructure. We have to defend national security. We have to defend our entire commercial and economic system.
“Of course we are very determined that such major attacks will not get through — this is the reason for our heavy investment. But you now have to assume that they will be attempted.”