Ministry of Defence foiled 1,000 cyber attacks says Fox

Image caption,
Dr Fox said substantial action had been taken to protect departmental systems across government

Liam Fox has said the Ministry of Defence is a "prime target" for cyber attacks after disclosing that it has dealt with more than 1,000 "potentially serious" incidents over the past year.

A "continuous battle" was being waged in cyberspace against UK interests by criminals and foreign intelligence services, the defence secretary warned.

"This is the war of the invisible enemy", he said in a speech in London.

Ministers announced £650m of new money in October to bolster cyber resilience.

The investment was focused on protecting key national infrastructure and defence assets.

The government has identified cyber threats as one of the most serious "Tier One" national security challenges alongside global terrorism, a major accident or natural hazard and an international military conflict.

In February, Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed that some government computers had been infected by a virus last year, and that there had been an attempt to steal data from a UK defence contractor.

'No Maginot Line'

Addressing the threat in a speech to business leaders, Dr Fox said the number of cyber "security incidents" had doubled over the past year.

"There is a continuous battle being waged against us, day in and day out," he told the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"Our systems are targeted by criminals, foreign intelligence services and other malicious actors seeking to exploit our people, corrupt our systems and steal information. To give you an idea of the challenge, last year the MoD blocked and investigated over 1,000 potentially serious attacks.

"This threat is growing in scale and sophistication - my department is a prime target."

The defence secretary said the government could not tackle cyber crime on its own and relied on business and the public to develop awareness of the threats faced.

Companies supplying defence equipment were vulnerable to cyber attacks, he added, and when the government awarded contracts in future it would be mindful of potential partners' own cyber safeguards.

"There is no Maginot Line in cyber space as recent high profile attacks on defence contractors have shown. Our national intellectual property in defence and security industries is at risk from a systematic marauding.

"The reality is that increasingly we will worry about how seriously our suppliers take account of the cyber security threat when we are placing our business."