Businesses and homes are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks as people install Internet-connected appliances and companies rely on outdated systems, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned.
Hammond used a speech in London Tuesday to set out the British government’s Cyber-Security Strategy, pledging to “strike back” against malicious activity. It came as the U.K.’s spy chief warned Russia is using the same online tools to target Britain. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, MI5 Director General Andrew Parker said Russia is an increasing threat to the U.K. and is employing cyber attacks to threaten its industry, economy and military capability.
Russia “is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways — involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks,” Parker told the Guardian. “Russia is at work across Europe and in the U.K. today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.”
Parker’s claims were dismissed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said they had no bearing in reality.
Parker said his interview, the first given by the service’s chief in its 107-year history, reflects the need for the public to understand the interventions required to keep them safe. That point was taken up Hammond, who pledged to boost law-enforcement capabilities and encourage universities to conduct research into security as part of a more “activist” approach.
“Britain is already an acknowledged global leader in cyber security,” Hammond said in a statement before the speech. “Our new strategy, underpinned by 1.9 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) of support over five years and excellent partnerships with industry and academia, will allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked.”
Britain has identified cyber attacks as a “tier one” national-security risk, alongside terrorism and global instability. To fight the threat, a National Cyber Security Center is due to have a full staff of 700 in its new London headquarters next year. The government is also seeking to push through a bill before Parliament to preserve and extend the powers of security and law-enforcement agencies, allowing them to gain access to communications.
The bill is a proportionate response to the threat to the U.K. and effectively balances privacy and security, Parker told the Guardian.