LONDON – Britain’s intelligence services, working alongside security experts from private companies, are setting up a secret control center in London to combat what the head of the country’s domestic spy agency has described as “astonishing” levels of cyberattacks.
The existence of the so-called Fusion Cell was due to be confirmed on Wednesday in a statement on the government’s strategy to boost information sharing in an expanding cyberwar against online attackers.
A team of security analysts at an undisclosed location will monitor attacks on large screens and provide details in real-time of who is being targeted,according to the BBC.
The British initiative, which also includes the creation of a social network-style Web portal to facilitate information exchange, is the latest in a series of international measures to combat what is seen as the growing threat of cyberattacks to both business and government networks.
President Obama last month signed an executive order to increase information sharing about cyberthreats between the government and private companies.
“We have seen a steady ramping up of cybersecurity threats,” Mr. Obamasaid in a recent interview. “Some are state sponsored, some are just sponsored by criminals.”
Jonathan Evans, the outgoing head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, made a similar point ahead of last year’s London Olympic Games.
“Vulnerabilities in the internet are being exploited aggressively not just by criminals but also by states,” he said in a rare interview. “The extent of what is going on is astonishing.”
The victims are said to include big companies. The BBC said one major London listed company had lost the equivalent of $1.2 billion as a result of a cyberattack from a hostile state.
Some 160 companies — from the financial, defense, energy, telecommunications and pharmaceutical sector — have signed up to a pilot program for the British government’s information sharing initiative since it was launched last year.
The European Union, meanwhile, is studying proposals for greater information sharing among the 27-member alliance following a series of high-profile cyberattacks directed at eBay, PayPal and Diginotar, a Dutch Internet certificate company.
Despite increased international attention to a growing cyberwar, some skeptics believe the threat is being hyped by governments and by companies involved in an increasingly lucrative and pervasive security industry.
“Yes, attacks take place, but the fact that they take place across the Internet is no different from those using any other technology,” wrote Mr. Moody, an “open source” expert.
“Trying to claim that the ‘cyberthreat’ is somehow qualitatively different is merely a demonstration of the abiding ignorance and fear that afflicts our rulers when it comes to the digital realm.”
In the United States and elsewhere, plans to combat the threat have raised privacy concerns and accusations that governments are overreacting.
“A reminder is in order,” Thomas Rid wrote at Foreign Policy this month. “The world has yet to witness a single casualty, let alone fatality, as a result of a computer attack.”
Mr. Rid, a London University war studies expert, said private computer security companies were keen to pocket government money earmarked for cybersecurity. “And hype is the means to that end.”
The cybertrend has already been spotted by investors. The U.S.-basedInvestment U Web site said this week it had spotted “a great investment opportunity” back in 2011.
“Fast forward to the present,” Investment U’s Jason Jenkins wrote. “Cyber stocks are finally starting to move. And the cybercrime issue has exploded – not just in terms of domestic fraud, but it has now been elevated to national security problem No. 1.”
The potential opportunities were spotted by the British government as it prepared to announce its new Fusion Cell.
“Businesses that take cybersecurity seriously can gain commercial advantages from doing so,” James Brokenshire, the British minister for security, said earlier this month, adding, “The U.K. can export expertise through the growth of a vibrant U.K. security industry.”
- Expert Offers US Government Advice on How to Respond to Cyberattacks (news.softpedia.com)
- Cyberthreats Getting Worse, House Warns (fox8.com)
- Cyberthreats getting worse, House intelligence officials warn (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Inside the Biggest Cyberattack in History (cybtribe.wordpress.com)