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MOD to create new cyber defence force staffed by reservists

The UK government is set to create a new cyber security unit staffed by a team of expert reservists who will help defend the UK's national security.

The new Joint Cyber Reserve will see hundreds of reservists working alongside regular forces to protect critical computer networks, safeguard vital data and even launch strikes.

The defence secretary Philip Hammond has said that the set up will work similar to the TA, but "for computer geniuses". Recruitment will begin in October.

In a statement, Hammond called the force "an exciting opportunity for Internet experts in industry to put their skills to good use for the nation."

"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," he added.

Recruitment will focus on three main groups, the MOD said: Regular personnel leaving the armed forces; current and former reservists with the necessary skills; and individuals with no previous military experience, but with the necessary technical knowledge, skills, experience.

Outlining the importance of the new unit, Hammond told the Conservative party conference: "Last year, our cyber defences blocked around 400,000 advanced, malicious cyber threats to the government secure intranet alone."

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, he added: "More and more, modern warfare will be about people sitting in bunkers in front of computer screens, whether remotely piloted aircraft or cyber weapons."

"People think of military as land, sea and air. 'We long ago recognised a fourth domain – space. Now there's a fifth – cyber.

"This is the new frontier of defence. For years, we have been building a defensive capability to protect ourselves against these cyber attacks. That is no longer enough."

He did concede however, that cash for the unit will be detracted from military funding elsewhere, but argued that "military capability doesn't stand still. You cannot fossilise it".

"As much as we love and cherish our military traditions, the defence of the nation means we must spend money on the capabilities of tomorrow, not yesterday," he said.