Britain Boosts Cybersecurity, Drone Program as ISIS Debate Swells Worldwide

Cyberdefenses and increased spending are part of the British response to multiple terror attacks launched in Paris, France, last week. With as many as 129 dead in the coordinated attacks, governments are looking at how to deal with the violent militant group known as the Islamic State.

by / November 17, 2015
British Prime Minister David Cameron in May 2015. Flickr/Number 10

As many nations consider how to deal with the radicalized terror group known commonly as the Islamic State (IS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the British government has vowed to increase cybersecurity to thwart potential attacks.

While many nations have openly discussed military action against the prolific extremist group, top British officials have said they will focus on cybersecurity and offense, as well as more typical physical responses to the organization’s recent violent attacks.

In a Monday speech at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Chancellor George Osborne said more emphasis needed to be placed on protecting British infrastructure, like hospitals, airports and industry.

“Let’s be clear. [The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL)] is already using the Internet for hideous propaganda purposes; for radicalization, for operational planning too,” Osborne said. “They have not, so far, been able to use it to kill people by attacking our infrastructure through cyberattacks. They do not yet have that capability, but we know they are doing their best to build it.”

The chancellor went onto say the efforts would be part and parcel to military action against the self-proclaimed Islamic group. 

“So when we talk about tackling ISIL, that means tackling their cyberthreat as was the threat of their guns and their bombs and their knives,” he said. “The starting point must be that every British company is a target; that every network will be attacked, and that cybercrime is not something that happens to other people.”

According to the Osborne, GCHQ is monitoring more than 450 cyber-based threats to British networks from what he called “high-end adversaries.” 

Osborne’s comments followed closely on the heels of multiple coordinated IS attacks in Paris, France, which reportedly claimed as many as 129 lives throughout the city Nov. 13.

Prime Minister David Cameron also spoke to the British government’s priorities in a speech he made to during the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London Nov. 16. 

Cameron said the country would commit to spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense until 2020 while boosting the number of military drones in the country’s fleet.

“With a growing economy, this means a rising defense budget — with more money every year. But it’s not just about the amount of money we spend or the size of our forces; it’s also about our ability to deploy them quickly with the right equipment to get things done,” he said. “We have seen how vital drones are in the fight against ISIL so with this extra money we are doubling our fleet of drones. We know we need the ability to carry out airstrikes so this money will provide for more fighter aircraft.”

Additionally, the prime minister said there would be more money spent on the bolstering the capabilities of Britain’s special forces, which he said would see spending increase of £2 billion (roughly $3.04 billion USD) over the current parliament. 

Cameron also announced the increase of security and intelligence staff to the tune of 1,900 and more than double spending on the country’s aviation security. He also gave nod to the importance of cyber-readiness in his speech, saying the United Kingdom would be investing in “a new generation of cyberdefense to block and disrupt attacks.”

At the Monday G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, President Obama said there would be an “intensification” of his administration’s current strategy against the Islamic State, but said the addition of ground troops would be a mistake. 

Obama also said the United States would continue to partner with the French in a counterterrorism capacity following the events of last week.

“France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we’re announcing a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process by which we share intelligence and operational military information with France,” he said. “This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often — because we need to be doing everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens.”

Despite shifts to military strategy in other countries, Obama said there would be no significant changes to the US’s military strategy. To date, drone and airstrikes have been a major part in the action against the radical network.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.

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