UK to spend big in drive to create cyber defence force

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond appeals to the UK's IT experts to sign up to the Joint Cyber Reserve Unit when it launches next month

The Government is set to spend hundreds of millions of pounds recruiting an army of “cyber reserves”.

Starting this October, the Ministry of Defence will call on Britain’s top IT “geniuses” to put their skills to use defending the country, in a way they might never have been able to before in the traditional reserves.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said hundreds of part-time specialists would be placed across the armed forces in order to protect the UK from online attacks and even launch their own “strikes in cyber space”.

The MoD said terms and conditions for those recruited to the Joint Cyber Reserve Unit would “recognise the unique attributes of individuals who might otherwise not be attracted to, or able to serve in the reserve forces”.

Technical experts were just one of the groups the Government hopes to attract to the new unit – servicemen and women leaving the regular armed forces will also be encouraged to retrain in cyber defence skills and current and former reservists will also be eligible to apply.

Mr Hammond announced the new recruitment drive ahead of the start of his Conservative party’s annual conference in Manchester.

He said: “In response to the growing cyber threat, we are developing a full-spectrum military cyber capability, including a strike capability, to enhance the UK's range of military capabilities.

“Increasingly, our defence budget is being invested in high-end capabilities such as cyber and intelligence and surveillance assets to ensure we can keep the country safe.

“The cyber reserves will be an essential part of ensuring we defend our national security in cyber space. This is an exciting opportunity for internet experts in industry to put their skills to good use for the nation, protecting our vital computer systems and capabilities.”

Anyone applying would be subject to security vetting, officials pointed out, as well as citizenship and residency requirements and a commitment to take part in at least a minimum level of annual training.

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