State-sponsored cyber attacks have escalated to such an extent that the UK may soon be forced to retaliate, according to a report in The Observer today.
Lord West of Spithead, the parliamentary under-secretary for security and counter-terrorism, told the paper that the UK is under daily attack from foreign states and terrorist groups.
He explained that there had been 300 "significant attacks" on core government computer networks in the past year, but that linking some of these to foreign regimes is nigh on impossible owing to the global, borderless and generally lawless nature of the internet.
"There is no doubt that some state actors have sucked out huge amounts of intellectual copyright, designs to whole aero engines, things that have taken years and years of development. The moment you mention a particular state, they will deny it," he told the paper.
"If some state sponsor keeps trying to get into your systems, probably for industrial espionage, are you going to go back into their system and bugger it up? We're all capable of doing these things. At the moment we wouldn't do that, but maybe this is where we need to have discussions."
Attacks on critical infrastructure are garnering more headlines than ever. Security giant McAfee released new research in January showing that attacks on critical infrastructure IT systems are widespread and growing in frequency, and could cost over $6m (£3.7m) a day on average.
However, these attacks are also being taken more seriously. The UK government recently announced a new Office of Cyber Security, while President Obama appointed security veteran Howard Schmidt as his Cyber Security Co-ordinator.
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