The Government is to build a new digital warfare centre capable of launching “offensive” cyber attacks against hostile powers such as Russia, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.
The new £5 billion National Cyber Force headquarters will be built in the North West – in Samlesbury, Lancashire – the heart of the so-called “red wall” of traditional Labour seats which the Tories took in the 2019 general election.
The Sunday Telegraph said Boris Johnson is expected to cite it in his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference – which begins this weekend in Manchester – as an example of the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.
Mr Wallace compared the impact of the new centre – which is expected to employ thousands of cyber experts and analysts by 2030 – to the locations of GCHQ in Cheltenham in the 1950s.
“Cheltenham was a small country town and look what it has done. That’s what we mean by levelling up,” he told the Telegraph.
Mr Wallace said the creation of the new centre – which will be run jointly by GCHQ – would put Britain “at the front” of the countries which are able to mount offensive cyber attacks.
“We will be one of the very, very few nations in the world with that scale,” he said.
The Defence Secretary said cyber had become “a new domain in battle” and that it was essential the Britain was able to operate there against potential adversaries.
“Some foreign states are waging cyber warfare on us every single day. And we have a right under international law and among ourselves to defend ourselves. We will defend ourselves from cyber warfare if that warfare is dangerous, corrupting, or damaging,” he said.
“Offensive cyber can do a range of things, including going after paedophiles and their networks, going after terrorism and their networks, and obviously going after hostile states, should we choose to do so where they use capabilities.
“It’s a new front, a new domain in battle. And that’s what we’ve got to be able to do here.”