Developing cyber warfare capabilities is a "huge priority" for the UK, according to the new armed forces chief.
General David Richards said in his first public speech since taking over as Chief of Defence Staff that the UK is "more actively expanding our understanding and weaponry in this area than in any other", according to Reuters.
"I often say to people, even today you might take out a country's infrastructure by bombing the hell out of it," Richards is reported as saying. "Within no time at all you'll do it through cyber attack. It's a huge area of risk."
The government has already shown the importance of developing cyber warfare capabilities, having earmarked a further £500m to help the UK defend against the growing threat of cyber attacks, despite cutting other areas in the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review.
There have also been numerous warnings from high-profile ministers and security chiefs on the potential for cyber attack from nation states or terrorists, including home secretary Theresa May and GCHQ director Iain Lobban.
The Chinese hacking attacks on Google and others, and the discovery of the Stuxnet worm, are two of the clearest and most high-profile incidents illustrating that state-sponsored cyber attacks are now widespread, although neither has been conclusively proved.
Although the government is taking a step in the right direction by allocating greater resources to the fight against cyber crime, it is still "losing the battle for security", according to Rob Cotton, chief executive of information assurance firm NCC Group.
“In order to minimise the threat, the government must work with security experts from across the country and if necessary the world, to produce a watertight, considered strategy to battle international cyber crime," he argued.
"While much of this protection can be achieved by patching simple vulnerabilities in existing networks, other threats will require specialist defence strategies and responsive action.”
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