Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cyber Attack Tops Britain's List of Defense Priorities

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cyber Attack Tops Britain's List of Defense Priorities

Article excerpt

Britain's strategy for national security, released today, tips resources toward new threats like a cyber attack. The shifting priorities come on the eve of a review that will outline cuts to the defense budget.

A cyber attack capable of devastating Britain's economy and infrastructure was elevated to the very top of a list of threats facing the UK today in a long awaited strategy for national security. It was published on the eve of what are expected to be stringent cuts to the defense budget. Natural hazards such as pandemic flu and the persistent shadow of Irish Republican and international terrorism were also listed in the top tier of risks in a long-awaited strategy paper, along with an international military crisis involving unnamed countries, but assumed to refer to a war involving Iran, Israel, and the United States. However, the elevation of the threat posed by hackers acting on the orders of a hostile state or terrorist group into the same bracket of dangers was greeted as a marker of shifting priorities in a changing world and in an age of austerity. "The size and range of cyber threats has increased a lot in the last two to three years," says Malcolm Chalmers of Britain's Royal United Services (RUSI) defense think tank. "But it's also about setting the government up for announcing increased money for cyber [defense]," Professor Chalmers says. "One thing that the government is anxious about in this spending review process is that the whole focus will be on cuts, and they will want to give a sense of increasing spending in some areas, alongside some reductions in others."

'Traditional' areas take a hit

While more "traditional" aspects of defense - such as spending on tanks and fighter jets - will be hit, a further Pounds 500m is to be diverted into bolstering cyber security for key infrastructure and defense assets, while counterterrorism will also benefit from increased funding. Britain's dire financial straits form the broader backdrop to Tuesday's Strategic Defense and Security Review, which will detail areas of cuts to achieve up to 8 percent savings. On Wednesday, overall spending cuts will be unveiled. …

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