Cheltenham, England – Outspoken UK security minister Lord West says that the UK has the ability to launch cyber attacks against foreign governments.
Lord West, who described hackers as ‘nasty bastards’, said that the UK had come under attack on a number of occasions from other countries such as China and Russia and organised criminal gangs, but claimed that the UK does not use its resources for industrial espionage.
“I think it would be very silly of any nation not to have an ability to use cyber space for the safety and security of its nation,” said the minister, speaking at the launch of the UK’s new Cyber Security Centre, which brings together the expertise of MI5, the GCHQ listening centre in Cheltenham and the Metropolitan Police.
“We have an ability to do things and we have got very good and very talented people who have worked on this, but we do not go and attack other nations to try and find their industrial secrets. I think that coordinated attacks on a regular basis to try and get industrial information from a nation is wrong.”
West claimed the UK was leading the world in its cyber security strategy and had developed the capability to strike back at cyber attacks, although he refused to be drawn on whether it had ever been used in anger:
“It would be silly to say that we don’t have any capability to do offensive work from Cheltenham, but I don’t think I should say any more than that.”
GCHQ has recruited a team of former hackers to work at the top-secret electronic surveillance centre.
“We haven’t hired any ultra, ultra criminals,” he added. “But you need youngsters who are deep into this stuff. If they have been slightly naughty boys, very often they really enjoy stopping other naughty boys.”
Lord West said that Britain was working ‘very, very closely’ with the US, which announced a similar strategy last month.