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British military will spend £650 million on cyber warfare

That much cash buys a lot of bits
Fri Nov 12 2010, 17:56

THE GLORIOUS British military that was chased out of Basra in Iraq and is likely to advance to the rear out of Afghanistan for about the fifth time in the last 200 years has apparently decided to spend £650 million on developing its cyber warfare capabilities.

At least that won't require it to close with an enemy force and actually fight, or perhaps, in order to be effective, maybe it will.

Aside from defensive capabilities, has learned the military will look at deploying cyber warfare techniques in an offensive manner. This follows from armed forces minister Nick Harvey saying, "actions in cyberspace form part of the battlefield rather than being separate to it".

Harvey added that physical capabilities, presumably referring to old fashioned infantry and artillery "will never be replaced" and that cyber warfare capabilities will integrate with more traditional forms of warfare. At present the Ministry of Defense (MoD) refuses to acknowledge it is developing any cyber warfare capabilities.

All of this asks the question, just how will the might of the British military embrace routers instead of rockets? Cyber warfare brings up connotations of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, however any attack is likely to include far more than saturating the critical military, government and financial servers or even the Internet links of a country.

Recently Burma found itself at the focus of a persistent DDoS attack that resulted in the country's Internet connectivity going down. Perhaps ironically, mitigating the effects of such an attack could in theory help improve the Internet infrastructure within a country. It should be noted that not all DDoS attacks need to saturate connectivity in order to have the desired effect.

The UK's MoD is likely to consider some good old fashioned social engineering techniques for the humble Tommy to get his foot through the door when it comes to cyber warfare.

A cyber attack is likely to target a country's infrastructure such as energy distribution hubs, communication centres and utilities to try to paralyse the country. With many of these systems being run on private networks and hopefully not connected to the public Internet, the need for physical access will still be required.

Indeed, it is hard not to be reminded of Die Hard 4.0 when talking about cyberwarfare on this scale. Alas, we exhausted the production budget of The INQUIRER in an attempt to hire Bruce Willis for a video demonstration, but sadly the princely offer of a pint and a packet of crisps wasn't enough to lure him out of his comfortable surroundings.

Just like physical warfare, it's unlikely that militaries engaging in cyber warfare will go after civilian broadband connections, as the effect would simply not be worth the effort. And thanks to Britain's poor broadband infrastructure, Brits should be able to sleep easy knowing that no self-respecting warlord will waste his time attacking bumpkin broadband connections.

Research into offensive cyber warfare capabilities might not only result in upgrades to UK Internet infrastructure but also improved defence capabilities. While it's unlikely that any of this will end up in the hands of the public, it does go to show that the Internet is now being considered as a battleground worth fighting upon. µ



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