Last spring, the British government openly suggested that the U.K is gearing up to bolster computer network defenses by initiating the development of new cyber offensive tools for their arsenal, according to a report in ITProUK.
"We need a toolbox of capabilities and that's what we are currently developing. The circumstances and manner in which we would use them are broadly analogous to what we would do in any other domain," said British armed forces minister Nick Harvey.
Amid growing concerns over state-sponsored attacks emanating from China, Iran, Russia and other nations, western governments have begun to seriously step-up the cyber offensive rhetoric, with the U.K issuing some of the boldest assertions.
“Future conflict[s] will see cyber operations conducted in parallel with more conventional actions in the sea, land and air operations. Therefore we must plan, train, exercise and operate in a way which integrates our activities in both cyber and physical space. We will grow a cadre of dedicated cyber experts to support our own and allied cyber operations and secure our vital networks,” a British Ministry of Defense spokesperson said.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague has now escalated the cyberwar rhetoric after disclosing that the U.K. is investing heavily in both cyber defense and offensive capabilities.
Ironically, the sharp increase in spending is intended to prevent a cyber arms race, according to Hague:
"We are trying to prevent an arms race in cyber space. Given that the internet changes every day and billions more people will have access to it over the coming years, the potential for that arms race to grow and go out of control is enormous," Hague stated.
Increasing funding, personnel, and resources is still no guarantee that network defenses will be adequate to withstand the a concerted effort to breach critical systems Hague warns.
"There is no 100 per cent defence against this, just as there isn't against any other form of attack. We have to defend critical national infrastructure. We have to defend national security. We have to defend our entire commercial and economic system. Of course we are very determined that such major attacks will not get through — this is the reason for our heavy investment. But you now have to assume that they will be attempted."
Western governments are not the only ones ready to ante-up in the high stakes game of cyber security. Chinese government officials earlier this year acknowledged the existence of a military unit dedicated to cyber warfare activity, according to intelligence sources.
China has reportedly recruited thousands of hackers for a cyber force tasked with infiltrating a multitude of computers to establish a large botnet which can be utilized to conduct denial of service (DoS) campaigns to disrupt targeted websites as well as conducting cyber espionage activity to pilfer sensitive information.