U.K. Must Focus on Defense Cyber Security, Lawmakers Say

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond should put a greater focus on the “urgent” cyber-security threat to the U.K.’s military, a panel of lawmakers said.

Parliament’s cross-party Defense Committee found that the armed forces are so dependent on communications technology that, if subject to a cyber attack, “their ability to operate could be totally compromised.” It asked the government in a report published in London today to set out its contingency plans and, if it has none, “to urgently create some.”

“It is our view that cyber security is a sufficiently urgent, significant and complex activity to warrant increased ministerial attention,” James Arbuthnot, the Conservative lawmaker who heads the committee, said in an e-mailed statement. “The government needs to put in place -- as it has not yet done -- mechanisms, people, education, skills, thinking and policies which take into account both the opportunities and vulnerabilities which cyberspace presents.”

The defense ministry said its investment on cyber security of 650 million pounds ($1 billion) over four years underlined the importance it attaches to the threats.

The ministry “takes the protection of our systems extremely seriously and has a range of contingency plans in place to defend against increasingly sophisticated attacks although, for reasons of national security, we would not discuss these in detail,” Defense Minister Andrew Murrison said in an e-mailed statement.

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co.’s Cassidian unit manages more than 90 percent of the U.K. defense ministry’s networks as part of the Atlas consortium, including the provision of security services that the company says “detect, isolate and neutralize cyber attacks.”

Cassidian is “completely engaged” with the government “in ongoing work to refine and improve contingency measures in the event of a major cyber attack,” Mo Stevens, its U.K. chief executive officer, said in an e-mailed statement. “There needs to be continued investment in research and government-sponsored collaboration opportunities to ensure the leading cyber security players share knowledge and experiences.”

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