Saturday 22 July 2017

Cyber war and terror are main UK threats

Report pinpoints security dangers facing the police

Mohammed Abbas in London

Cyber attacks, terrorism, inter-state conflict and natural disasters are the top threats to the future of British security, officials said yesterday.

The list of possible dangers was released a day before a major military review due to include deep spending cuts.

In a new National Security Strategy, the government also highlighted threats from al-Qa'ida and Northern Ireland-linked groups, as it sought to convince critics that a sweeping armed forces review due today is policy driven, and not a money-saving exercise.

"Our strategy sets clear priorities -- counter-terrorism, cyber (attacks), international military crisis, and disasters such as floods," the government said in its report.

But a parliamentary watchdog joined critics who say today's Strategic Defence and Security Review, the first since 1998, has been rushed and is aimed more at reducing the record budget deficit than meeting future threats.

Slash

The government is trying to slash a budget deficit of nearly 11pc of national output while keeping Britain a strong military power in Europe and a capable ally of the United States, which it has backed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee said that, given the size of expected spending cuts, it doubted "whether the government has the capacity to deliver a (review) which is any way strategic".

Negotiations between the defence ministry and the treasury have resulted in cuts of less than 10pc over four years in a defence budget of £36.9bn (€26.7bn) .

This is well below cuts averaging 25pc expected in most departments' budgets, but will still lead to reductions, delays or cancellation of major hardware orders.

This will be a boon for software and security firms, while some traditional hardware manufacturers are re-positioning themselves.

Business

British firm BAE Systems recently acquired L-1 Identity Solutions' US counter-terrorism business.

"The decision to allocate more than a billion pounds to cyber security underlines the positive step change in the government's approach," said Greg Day, a director of security strategy for security software maker McAfee Inc.

Defence cuts could have a deep impact on industry in Britain, as well as having political and diplomatic consequences.

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates voiced concern that defence cuts by NATO members may go too far, sapping their military strength.

The Conservative Party, which heads the ruling coalition, is traditionally seen as being pro-military, and arguments over defence cuts have exposed rifts within its ranks.

Last week the head of the British government's eavesdropping operation said countries were already using cyber warfare techniques to attack each other.

Irish Independent

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