British military at risk from cyber attack - watchdog

LONDON Wed Jan 9, 2013 12:18am GMT

Soldiers march at the Tower of London in central London November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Soldiers march at the Tower of London in central London November 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's armed forces could be "fatally compromised" by a sustained cyber attack and the government should do more to boost the security of its computer systems, parliament's defence watchdog said on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) should also do more to grasp cyber tools and techniques to enhance the military's offensive capabilities, parliament's defence committee said in a report on cyber security.

"Evidence received by the committee suggested that in the event of a sustained cyber attack, the ability of the armed forces to operate effectively could be fatally compromised due to their dependence on information and communication technology," the committee said in a statement.

The committee's chair urged the government to set out details of its contingency plans if a major cyber attack occurs.

"If it has none, it should say so - and urgently create some," committee chair James Arbuthnot said in a statement.

The committee report highlighted worries over attacks that could give deceptive signalling intelligence from satellites, or even disable combat units such as ships and aircraft.

"One of the challenges is that we do not know what threat we will be facing next month, let alone in a year's time," the report quoted Cabinet Minister Francis Maude, who oversees Britain's cyber security strategy, as saying.

Britain has a National Cyber Security Programme in place, backed by 650 million pounds ($1 billion) of investment over four years, and the MoD said it was far from complacent.

"The MOD takes the protection of our systems extremely seriously and has a range of contingency plans in place to defend against increasingly sophisticated attacks," Minister for International Security Strategy Andrew Murrison said in a statement.

"For reasons of national security, we would not discuss these in detail," he added.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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