The UK government is to establish a new cyber crime operations centre at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham.
Cyber security minister Lord West said the centre’s priorities, in descending order, would be state-sponsored cyber attacks, cyber crime and terrorism.
“We know that various state actors are very interested in cyber warfare. The terrorist aspect of this is the least concern, but it is developing,” he said at the launch of the government’s National Security Strategy.
Intriguingly, Lord West hinted that the new centre would have the ability to launch cyber attacks, as well as serve as a frontline defence for fraud, identity theft and other online crime.
“It would be silly to say that we don’t have any capability to do offensive work from Cheltenham, and I don’t think I should say any more than that,” he said.
He refused to say whether the government had used such capabilities in the past, but said that it had drawn on the experience of former “naughty boys” without employing any “ultra, ultra criminals”.
“You need youngsters who are deep into this stuff. If they have been slightly naughty boys, very often they really enjoy stopping other naughty boys,” Lord West said.
The US is also reported to be considering developing offensive cyber-attack capabilities. “Armies have always had some form of offensive capability,” US Air Force officer Col Charlie Williamson recently said, according to the BBC recently quoted “The idea is that if we have the capability to strike back, then a potential attacker has to take that into account before launching an attack.”
Col Williamson proposed creating a military-grade botnet and making it public knowledge in the hopes it would act as a deterrent.