Terror, cyber attacks 'biggest security threats' in Britain

Oct 18, 2010 by Alice Ritchie
Skull and crossbones reflected in a computer screen. International terrorism and cyber attacks pose the biggest threat to British security, a new government strategy published said, ahead of a major shake-up of the defence budget.

International terrorism and cyber attacks pose the biggest threats to British security, a new government strategy said Monday, just before deep cuts to the defence budget are unveiled.

Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition identified these as "tier one" threats in a new national security strategy alongside natural hazards such as flu pandemics or floods, and foreign military crises that may involve Britain.

The strategy was unveiled before Cameron announces details of a defence review Tuesday, which is set to outline cuts of around eight percent in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) budget.

Those cuts are part of Wednesday's comprehensive spending review which could see government-wide savings of up to 25 percent as the coalition, which took office in May, battles to pay off Britain's huge deficit.

In a foreword to the security strategy, Cameron warned that Britain was entering an "age of uncertainty" where threats to its national interests were constantly changing.

"All of this calls for a radical transformation in the way we think about national security and organise ourselves to protect it," he wrote.

He added that the previous Labour government, which took Britain into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had left "a defence and security structure that is woefully unsuitable for the world we live in today".

The new strategy arranges the risks to Britain's security into three tiers which are likely to reflect how budget resources are allocated, although officials insist all the threats named were important and would be addressed.

The top tier includes international terrorism, which Cameron says is the "most pressing threat we face today".

This comes principally from Al-Qaeda, which the strategy says has been weakened in Afghanistan and Pakistan thanks to international military action but can exert its influence through affiliates in Somalia, Yemen and Iraq.

The document also warns of the threat of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, saying that "the activities of residual terrorist groups (opposed to the peace process) have increased in the last 18 months".

are also considered a top tier threat, particularly given how dependent British businesses and services are on the Internet and with the 2012 Olympic Games in London likely to be a particular target.

"Cyberspace is already woven into the fabric of our society. It is integral to our economy and our security," the strategy says.

Last week, the head of Britain's electronic spying agency warned the country faced a "real and credible" threat of a cyber attack from hostile states or criminals.

In rare public comments in London, Iain Lobban -- director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) -- said infrastructure such as power grids and emergency services was at risk.

Elswhere in tier one are natural incidents, such as major flooding or the recent flu epidemic, and foreign military and humanitarian crises that could force Britain to intervene to protect its strategic interests.

On tier two, signalling a lower level of importance, is the risk of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack in Britain by a foreign state or proxy.

This comes above the risk of a large-scale conventional military attack, which was included in tier three alongside threats to energy , the disruption of food supplies or a nuclear accident on British soil.

The war in Afghanistan, where Britain has almost 10,000 troops fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents, was not mentioned specifically but officials insisted it remained a defence priority.

"This is about the future," a government official said on condition of anonymity.

Explore further: LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US urges NATO to build 'cyber shield'

Sep 15, 2010

NATO must build a "cyber shield" to protect the transatlantic alliance from any Internet threats to its military and economic infrastructures, a top US defence official said Wednesday.

UK looks to young geeks to secure cyberspace

Jun 25, 2009

(AP) -- Britain is hiring former computer hackers to join a new security unit aimed at protecting cyberspace from foreign spies, thieves and terrorists, the country's terrorism minister said.

Obama setting up better security for computers

May 29, 2009

(AP) -- America has for too long failed to adequately protect the security of its computer networks, President Barack Obama said Friday, announcing he will name a new cyber czar to take on the job.

Recommended for you

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

20 hours ago

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

Apr 18, 2014

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

White House updating online privacy policy

Apr 18, 2014

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...