The UK Government’s new Ministry of Defence cyber reserve unit could actually increase risks to internet systems and cause a "cyber arms race", says Kaspersky Lab.
The department will recruit hundreds of computer experts as ‘cyber reservists’. They will work alongside regular forces to protect critical computer networks, safeguard data, build cyber defences and protect the UK’s national security.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "In response to the growing cyber threat, we are developing a full-spectrum military cyber capability, including a strike capability, to enhance the UK’s range of military capabilities. Increasingly, our defence budget is being invested in high-end capabilities such as cyber and intelligence and surveillance assets to ensure we can keep the country safe.
"The Cyber Reserves will be an essential part of ensuring we defend our national security in cyberspace. This is an exciting opportunity for internet experts in industry to put their skills to good use for the nation, protecting our vital computer systems and capabilities."
But David Emm, Senior Security Researcher at anti-virus software vendor Kaspersky Lab, has outlined the possible knock-on effects of creating the cyber reserve unit.
"It now seems that the Government is saying that it considers that ‘offence is the best form of defence’," he said.
"While it’s understandable that governments might want to adopt such a position, doing so introduces a very real possibility of a cyber arms race and, accordingly, increased risks to internet-based systems everywhere. After all, if one government decides to openly engage in cyber offence, others will be sure to follow suit.
"And a cyber offence escalation would increase the risk of the technologies involved ending up in the wrong hands – to be manipulated for malevolent ends. Unlike traditional weapons, tools used in cyberwarfare are very easy to clone and reprogram by adversaries or other threat actors to be used in sustained strikes.
"The only effective way to counter this trend is for governments to work together towards the establishment of a cyber arms limitation agreement to prevent the continued escalation of cyberattacks."
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