Following the devastation of the recent Paris attacks, the U.K. is redoubling its efforts on its cybersecurity front, both in offensive and defensive capacities. A true testament to the more insidious capabilities of technology, extremist group ISIS is known for having an alarmingly sophisticated online presence, not only leveraging social media to recruit new participants, but also attempting to attack national infrastructure by digital means. As a result, the U.K. is taking proactive measures to ensure that ISIS makes no further progress in its campaign of terror.
On Tuesday, Chancellor George Osborne spoke at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), promising to take the fight against ISIS online. “We will defend ourselves. But we will also take the fight to you,” said the politician. “We are building our own offensive cyber capability — a dedicated ability to counter-attack in cyberspace. When we talk about tackling (Islamic State), that means tackling their cyberthreat, as well as their guns, bombs and knives.”
Spending on cybersecurity will double by 2020, Osborne said, reaching a new total of £1.9 billion ($2.9 billion). And while plans for increased funding had been put into play before the Paris attacks, the latest bloodshed has only served to reinforce the necessity of these increased efforts, he added. Already, the GCHQ is monitoring threats towards some 450 companies across sectors including aerospace, finance defense, energy, and telecommunications. While Osborne noted that ISIS has “not been able to use [the Internet] to kill people yet by attacking our infrastructure through cyberattack,” he added, “… we know they want it and are doing their best to build it.”
As part of the influx in cash for cybersecurity, the British government is investing £165 million ($250 million) in a Defense and Cyber Innovation Fund that aims to “support innovative procurement across both defense and cyber security,” according to Osborne. “It will mean that we support our cyber sector at the same time as we need to solve investing in solutions to the hardest cyber problems that government faces,” Osborne continued. “The threats to our country in cyberspace come from a range of places – from individual hackers, criminal gangs, terrorist groups and hostile powers.”
Despite the numerous benefits the Internet has afforded the world over, Osborne and a number of other leading experts in the field have noted that our increased connectivity comes at a risk. “The Internet has made us richer, freer, connected and informed in ways its founders could not have dreamt of. It has also become a vector of attack, espionage, crime and harm,” said the chancellor. “It is right that we choose to invest in our cyber defenses even in a time when we must cut other budgets,”