George Osborne says he's going to double funding for UK spy agencies to help them fight terrorists

George OsborneGetty Images EuropeChancellor George Osborne.

Chancellor George Osborne today unveiled a plan to double funding for Britain’s cyber security agencies.

Speaking at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, West England, Osborne said the UK will spend £1.9 billion over the next five years countering terrorism plots that are being facilitated by the internet, including those from Islamic State.

“We are not winning against those who would hurt us in cyberspace,” he told a room full of spies, academics, government officials and company leaders.

“The truth is that we need to run simply to stand still. The pace of innovation of cyber attack is breathtakingly fast, and defending Britain means that we have to keep up. At the heart of cyber security is a painful asymmetry between attack and defence. It is easier and cheaper to attack a network than it is to defend it. And the truth is that this asymmetry is growing.”

Osborne revealed a five-point plan that is being introduced as part of a government efforts to protect businesses, infrastructure and individuals from an increasing number of cyber attacks from terrorists and criminals.

“It is a bold, comprehensive plan, that will give Britain the next generation of cyber security, and make Britain one of the safest places to do business on line,” said Osborne. “It will give our companies and our citizens confidence that their cyber-safety is being properly protected. It will ensure that Britain remains at the cutting edge of the global cyber economy.”

The five points relate to:

  • boosting government defences: stronger defences for government systems; installing capabilities that can detect attacks; blocking bad addresses for government departments and potentially the public; and enhancing powers of the National Cyber Crime Unit.
  • a new national cyber centre: a unified source of advice and support for the economy that replaces the current “alphabet soup” of players with a single point of contact. The centre will have a “strong public face” and report directly to GCHQ. It will provide a single platform to handle incidents such as the TalkTalk hack as they arise.
  • skills: a new £20 million Institute of Coding; a dedicated programme for 14-17 year olds with promising cyber skills; two new cyber innovation centres including one in Cheltenham.
  • protecting critical national infrastructure: the government will work with industry to ensure that their systems and networks are protected from attackers.
  • deterring attacks: developing responses to hit back at those who attack the UK. Includes building a “secret offensive cyber capability — a dedicated ability to counter-attack in cyberspace.”

Osborne added that security and cyber protection will be at the heart of his spending review on November 25.

“In the Spending Review, I have made a provision to almost double our investment [in cyber defence],” said Osborne. “At its heart will be a stepped up investment to protect Britain from cyber attack and develop our sovereign capabilities in cyberspace, totalling £1.9 billion over five years. It is right that we choose to invest in our cyber defences even at a time when we must cut other budgets.”

The funding pledge comes as Europe braces itself for further attacks from Islamist extremists in light of the Paris attacks that saw 129 people killed over the weekend and the downing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt.

British intelligence agencies currently employ 12,700 people across domestic security agency MI5, overseas intelligence agency MI6 and communications agency GCHQ.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that an additional 1,900 spies will be hired across these agencies.

The chancellor said spending on aviation security will also be doubled with some of that money going towards hiring staff to assess the security risks at overseas airports.

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