ISIL is planning cyber attacks to directly threaten human lives, Chancellor George Osborne has said today, prompting a doubling of UK cyber crime funding to £1.9bn a year by 2020.
“The stakes could hardly be higher. If our electricity supply or our traffic control, or our hospitals are successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage, but in lives lost,” said Osborne today.
“ISIL’s murderous brutality has a strong digital element – at a time when so many others are using the internet to enhance freedom and give expression to liberal values and creativity, [ISIL] are using it for evil.
“Let’s be clear – ISIL are already using the internet for hideous propaganda purposes, for radicalisation, for operation planning too. They have not so far been able to use it to kill people by attacking our infrastructure through cyber attack. They do not yet have that capability, But we know they want it and we now they’re doing their best to build it.”
Osborne highlighted that the government is monitoring threats to 450 UK companies in areas of public utilities or defence, and that armed police will be present at today’s football match at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Prime Minister David Cameron also said yesterday that UK intelligence agency staff would be increased by 15 per cent.
Osborne did, however, add that the decision to double cyber defence funding at the National Cyber Security Centre had already been taken before Friday’s incident in Paris, in which over 120 people were killed by terrorist gunmen and suicide bombers.
Osborne’s speech comes at a time both following Paris attacks last Friday and as the Conservative government attempts to push its Investigatory Powers Bill through parliament.
The Bill includes plans to work with ISPs to collect and hold browsing history and phone call data on every member of the public in a move Dr Joss Wright, research fellow at Oxford Internet Institute called “ludicrous” at last week’s evidence session with the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.
“If we were asking for bulk collection, retention and access to that kind of data in the real world, there would be uproar,” said Wright, questioning how the government can believe “somehow because this is the internet and it’s slotted under ‘just collecting communications’ this bill is not worrying”.
Jonathan Luff, Co-Founder of Epsilon Advisory Partners and cyber security accelerator Cyber London, commenting on Osborbe’s speech, said:
“The UK is a cyber superpower and our innovation in security is amongst the best in the world. The National Cyber Security Centre is an important step forward for our national capability, and a unified approach from the Government will help enable businesses to access the best cyber security tools.”Now more than ever with we need the cutting edge security innovations developed by our best and brightest to be made widely available. At Cyber London we welcome anything that makes it easier for our cyber pioneers to bring their technology to bear and helps the latest technology reach the point of need faster.”
James Murphy, techUK’s Associate Director for Defence & Security added:
“Today’s announcements of enhanced funding and other initiatives are a clear indication that the government has grasped the singular importance cyber security to the UK’s interests.”

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