The UK could start responding to cyberattacks with military force

Michael Fallon
Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon. Getty

Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon warned on Tuesday that the UK could soon start responding to cyberattacks with military force.

The Cabinet Minister said that the UK could retaliate with its army, navy, or air force if there is an attack on UK IT systems, according to The Mirror.

“We’re building up a new 21st Century Cyber Corps, a band of expert volunteers, leaders in industry, who are going advise us on how to keep ahead in the cyber space race,” Fallon reportedly said.

“The price of an online attack could invite a response from any domain — air, land, sea or cyber space,” Fallon told the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank, according to The Mirror.

Fallon’s comments come four days after the UK parliament was hit by a cyberattack that left around 90 MPs and peers locked out of their own email accounts. Several weeks earlier, on May 12, the “WannaCry” malware attack plunged the NHS into disarray. Within hours of Fallon’s comments, another cyberattack was crippling companies around the world, including ad giant WPP.

Hms illustrious harrier jet

The UK could justify military action following a cyberattack through Nato’s Article V, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all, Fallon said according to The Mirror. The response would be decided on a case-by-case basis, Fallon stressed.

“[There] Clearly has to be a point at which they cross a certain threshold, endangering the state itself, the daily existence of its people and that is why we have pressed for NATO to be clear that a cyber-attack can be just as threatening as any other kind of physical attack when you are getting into the territory of Article V.”

Fallon also urged Britons to increase their cyber security. “We all have a responsibility to look after ourselves online,” Fallon said. “A stronger password here, a Windows update there and we would have stood an even better chance of warding off the parliamentary and WannaCry attacks.”

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