A unit, based at the Cheltenham headquarters of GCHQ, will “develop tactics,
techniques and plans to deliver military effects through operations in cyberspace.
GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence are preparing to launch cyber attacks against hostile states and terrorists, the Government has admitted.
Two separate units in the Defence Cyber Operations Group are working on an offensive capability to strike back at enemies who are trying to start electronic attacks on critical national infrastructure.
They are also likely to come up with computer programmes that could disable the conventional or nuclear capabilities of hostile nations.
Unveiling the “cyber security strategy”, David Cameron said: “While the internet is undoubtedly a force for social and political good, as well as crucial to the growth of our economy, we need to protect against the threats to our security.”
The document says that a “joint cyber unit” based at a military facility near the Cotswold town of Corsham “will develop and use a range of new techniques, including proactive measures to disrupt threats to our information security.”
Another unit, based at the Cheltenham headquarters of GCHQ, will “develop tactics, techniques and plans to deliver military effects through operations in cyberspace.”
The opaque language hides a strategy to develop an offensive capability to deal with cyber threats, agreed at the National Security Council, sources confirmed. It will involve using weapons such as a virus used by GCHQ to replace an online bomb-making manual with a cupcake recipe.
The Government does not name China and Russia, the sources of an undeclared cyber war, but the document says: “Some of the most sophisticated threats to the UK in cyberspace come from other states which seek to conduct espionage with the aim of spying on or compromising our government, military, industrial and economic assets as well as monitoring opponents of their regime.”
Under the cyber security strategy criminals who commit offences online and cyber bullies will be banned from the internet. Similar orders have been imposed on those charged with involvement in a series of cyber attacks by the Anonymous and LulzSec groups earlier this year, while they await trial.
Cyber sanctions were also used following the riots this summer.