IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

GCHQ and MoD to form £250m ‘joint cyber-force’

The 2,000-strong unit will launch cyber attacks against ISIS, Russia and criminal gangs

Graphic depicting cyber warfare as a soldier works in a room full of computers

GCHQ will create an offensive cyber unit to fight the growing wave of national security threats Britain faces from around the world.

A partnership between the Ministry of Defence (Mod) and the UK's intelligence organisation will see the government committing more than 250 million with 2,000 individuals deployed to orchestrate offensive actions.

According to The Times, the rising cyber threat from nations such as Russia and Iran, as well as terrorist groups like ISIS, will see experts brought in from the military, security services, and the cyber security industry.

"The MoD and GCHQ have a long and proud history of working together," a government spokesperson told IT Pro. "We are both committed to continuing to invest in this area, given the real threats the UK faces."

The new force, expected to be announced soon, will represent a step change in cyber strategy from a more defensive outlook to an offensive one. Targets on the list include rogue nations, extremist groups, and people-traffickers as well as paedophile rings.

The formation of this unit follows a review ordered by defence secretary Gavin Williamson, and has been given the working name "joint cyber-force". It'll see a quadrupling in manpower allocated towards offensive actions - and comes just five months after GCHQ revealed it had conducted its first successful cyber attack on ISIS.

In his first speech as GCHQ director in April, Jeremy Fleming confirmed the massive offensive action which was orchestrated last year systematically degraded the extremist group's online infrastructure.

"Daesh's ability to inspire, direct and enable attacks, and the simple tactics they use make stopping attacks much, much harder," Fleming said. "But the UK's CT team - led by MI5 and the Police, supported by GCHQ, MI6 and the Military - is evolving fast to match this threat."

He continued: "These operations have made a significant contribution to coalition efforts to suppress Daesh propaganda, hindered their ability to coordinate attacks, and protected coalition forces on the battlefield.

"But cyber is only one part of the wider international response. This is the first time the UK has systematically and persistently degraded an adversary's online efforts as part of a wider military campaign. Did it work? I think it did."

The threat faced by nations such as Russia not only manifest as incidents such as the Salisbury poisoning but a number of aggressive cyber events like the alleged hacking of the 2016 US presidential election.

The nation has also been accused of polluting public discourse in the West after research last month revealed the rise in anti-vaxx conspiracy theories circulating online can be pinned on Russian-originating botnets.

Unlike conventional botnets, used to spread malware, these networks served as 'content polluters' to disseminate fake news and erode public trust in the scientific establishment.

"This announcement highlights the growing need for more cyber-savvy workers in the UK, to secure our future at a national, organisational and personal level," said CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK Colin Lobley.

"While many people are still unsure of what a career in cyber security would look like, the reality is that many of these jobs require similar skills and knowledge to more known careers.

"For example, we need architects to build secure networks, lawyers to process cybercrime cases, psychologists to assess how human behaviour influences security, as well as military roles to act against national threats."

IT Pro approached GCHQ for comment but did not get a response at the time of writing.

Featured Resources

Four strategies for building a hybrid workplace that works

All indications are that the future of work is hybrid, if it's not here already

Free webinar

The digital marketer’s guide to contextual insights and trends

How to use contextual intelligence to uncover new insights and inform strategies

Free Download

Ransomware and Microsoft 365 for business

What you need to know about reducing ransomware risk

Free Download

Building a modern strategy for analytics and machine learning success

Turning into business value

Free Download

Recommended

What is cyber warfare?
Security

What is cyber warfare?

20 May 2022
Senate report slams agencies for poor cyber security
cyber security

Senate report slams agencies for poor cyber security

3 Aug 2021
Most employees put their workplace at risk by taking cyber security shortcuts
cyber security

Most employees put their workplace at risk by taking cyber security shortcuts

27 Jul 2021
61% of organizations say improving security a top priority for 2021
cyber security

61% of organizations say improving security a top priority for 2021

29 Jun 2021

Most Popular

16 ways to speed up your laptop
Laptops

16 ways to speed up your laptop

13 May 2022
Preparing for the 3G sunset
Network & Internet

Preparing for the 3G sunset

18 May 2022
(ISC)2 launches free scheme to get 100,000 UK citizens into cyber security
Careers & training

(ISC)2 launches free scheme to get 100,000 UK citizens into cyber security

17 May 2022