The new £5bn digital warfare centre which is capable of launching “offensive” cyber attacks against hostile powers such as Russia, announced this week by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, is being hailed by industry leaders as a positive step in terms of cyber awareness, boosting the UK’s security economy, and creating thousands of jobs.
The new National Cyber Force headquarters will be built in the North West – in Samlesbury, Lancashire – the heart of the so-called “red wall” of traditional Labour seats which the Tories took in the 2019 general election. The initiative was backed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his annual conference speech in Manchester this week.
The Defence Secretary said that cyber had become “a new domain in battle” and that it was essential Britain was able to operate there against potential adversaries.
Mr Wallace said the creation of the new centre – which will be run jointly by GCHQ – would put Britain “at the front” of the countries which are able to mount offensive cyber attacks.
Reaction from industry experts has so far been positive, with Chris Ross, SVP International, at Barracuda Networks, the cyber security vendor saying: “Boosting the UK’s cyber capabilities should be a major priority for the government, particularly with a sharp rise in sophisticated attacks such as ransomware on critical national infrastructure.
Ross continued, “With schools, hospitals and councils facing a growing array of threats, this ambitious new centre will not only boost the UK’s cyber defence capabilities, but it will hopefully act as hub to generate more awareness around cyber threats, increase appetite for security training and education in adjacent industries, and create many more cyber jobs in a hugely important and fast-growing industry.”
Referencing the UK’s quickly widening digital skills gap, Sheila Flavell CBE, COO, FDM Group, said: “This announcement is great news for the UK’s fast-growing cyber industry, boosting job creation and improving our national security capabilities. In both the public and private sector, cyber skills are in high demand, with organisations recognising the vital importance of having employees who are fully training and equipped to tackle external threats.
Flavell continued: “Yet these vacancies cannot be met unless we all work together to close the UK’s chronic skills gap. This means getting more young people to study STEM subjects, incentivising them with potential career paths, perks and good pay as well as ensuring that women returners to work are properly equipped to begin a new career in the tech industry.”
Meanwhile security expert Tim Sadler, Co-Founder & CEO for security firm Tessian said: “The proposed digital warfare centre is certainly a positive step towards boosting the UK’s cyber capabilities. Not only will it act as a global deterrent against major – and growing – cyber attacks, like ransomware and threats to critical national infrastructure, but it will also be crucial to creating jobs and advancing cyber skills in the UK.
“The other benefit of this programme is that it can also raise greater awareness around the rapidly changing cyber threat landscape UK businesses and institutions operate in. With greater awareness of the threats, employees can ‘level-up’ their understanding of how to better protect themselves from cyber threats inside and out of the workplace,” concluded Sadler.