The director of Cheltenham-based British codebreaker agency, GCHQ, appeared at the International Institute for International Studies to speak on the growing threat of cyber attacks.
GCHQ director Iain Lobban said that Britain's economic prosperity depended on the nation's ability to develop defences against so-called cyber attacks and that the trend of government placing services online represented a risk of personal data theft and fraud.
Lobban appeared a week before coalition government is due to provide a statement following the Strategic Defence Review on security strategy which is believed to earmark £1 billion to bolster cyber security.
"Cyberspace is contested every day, every hour, every minute, every second. I can vouch for that from the displays in our own operations centre of minute by minute cyber attempts to penetrate systems around the world," said Lobban in a statement released by the Prime Minister's office.
"Within the next few years online tax and benefit payment systems could be processing over one hundred billion pounds’ worth of payments each year, there will be a public expectation that the citizen’s transactions with Government will be protected."
The boss of the secretive electronic snooping agency said that 80 per cent of cyber attacks could be thwarted by deploying basic network security discipline while the remaining would entail mounting 'offensive' operations in cyberspace, presumably something GCHQ would be responsible for.