British military gears up for cyber war

The UK's Ministry of Defence is to recruit hundreds of 'cyber-soldiers', as it puts online attacks on the same war footing as conventional conflicts.

The news follows recent research revealed that many within the energy sector fear a major cyber-attack this year - and just days after US defence contractor Lockheed Martin revealed that it had been the subject of a significant cyber-attack.

The Cabinet Office and GCHQ's Cyber Security Operations Centre are to head up the programme, with General Jonathan Shaw of the Parachute Regiment announced as the new chief of a defence cyber-operations group.

The recruitment drive will receive part of the £650 million budget announced in the government's recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which will help fund commitments made under the National Cyber Security Programme unveiled last October.

"Our forces depend on computer networks, both in the UK and in operations around the world. But our adversaries present an advance and rapidly developing threat to these networks," the MoD said in a statement. It didn't state who those adversaries are.

"Future conflict will see cyber operations conducted in parallel with more conventional actions the sea, land and air operations," the statement added.

"We expect to significantly grow the number of dedicated cyber experts in the MoD and the number will be in the hundreds but precise details are classified," an MoD spokesman told the BBC.

A document released by the White House earlier this month outlined the US government's cyber security strategy, which included the possibility of military action against those suspected of carrying out cyber-attacks against US targets.