Britain will “strike first” with cyber attacks according to a report in The Sun.

The nation’s foreign secretary William Hague said the government will “not only deflect but prevent attacks”, reaffirming Britain’s aggressive approach to network-centric warfare.

“We will defend ourselves in every way we can, not only to deflect but to prevent attacks that we know are taking place,” Hague said.

But the report did not extrapolate nor quote the Minister on the “first strike” policy.

Despite the rhetoric, Hague said the government was “trying to prevent an arms race in cyber space”.

Yet he also said the nation had a “heavy investment” in technologies to prevent cyber attacks but said “the rest of the world will have to guess” what they were.

Sophos senior consultant Graham Cluely labelled Hague’s comments as “bravado”.

“Hague and the British Defence chiefs need to be very careful when planning attacks on overseas computer systems. A key challenge is attribution when it comes to internet attacks – proving that someone (or some nation) is behind a cyber attack is very, very difficult,” Cluely said,

Hagues’ comments were more assertive than those of officials within Australia’s Defence and Attorney-Generals departments.

Australia had not announced ambitions to develop offensive capabilities for network-centric warfare.

It instead had focussed on building defensive strategies including the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Australia — which educates and informs public and private organisations of threats — and signing treaties such as the European Convention on Cybercrime — which would make it easier to fight online crime across international borders.

Sources in the Attorney-General’s Department had previously downplayed the risk of cyberwar. Their department was heavily focussed on identifying and securing network systems which were of importance to national security.

US officials had previously flagged its readiness to use offensive cyber weapons and respond to network-centric attacks with bombs.

His comments come ahead of a meeting in which senior officials from some 60 countries will join big business executives in London next month to draft rules of conflict in network warfare.

“What is unacceptable in the physical world is also unacceptable in cyberspace,” Hague told The Sun.

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia

Britain cyberwar talk gets offensive
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