The UK's security services will "strike back" against hackers targeting its national interests, Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to say today (1 November) while announcing the latest £1.9bn ($2.3bn) cybersecurity package aimed at bolstering British defences against online crime.
The funding boost and strategy – which is set to continue until 2020 – will help protect the government, business and citizens from cybercrime and fraud. The work will build on the previously touted "Great British Firewall" to help protect computer networks from attack.
Spending will be allocated to the recruitment of more than 50 cyber specialists who will be working alongside experts at the National Crime Agency (NCA) and will help to combat tech-savvy criminals using malware and hacking to exploit web users, Hammond said.
According to the BBC, the strategy will also include the creation of a so-called Cybersecurity Research Institute to bring together the knowledge of UK academics and universities to help improve the defences of smartphones, laptops and tablets.
Furthermore, cybersecurity start-ups will be given help via an "innovation fund" that aims to develop – and commercialise – new tools to fight cybercrime.
Hammond said: "Our new strategy, underpinned by £1.9bn of support over five years and excellent partnerships with industry and academia, will allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked.
"Britain is already an acknowledged global leader in cybersecurity thanks to our investment of over £860m in the last parliament, but we must now keep up with the scale and pace of the threats we face."
He will add the strategy involves continued investment in "taking the fight to those who threaten Britain" however the minister failed to elaborate on any specific threat or nation-state that is currently a major concern. It comes after a heightened concern in the US over Kremlin-linked hackers.
Cabinet Office Minister Ben Gummer said: "No longer the stuff of spy thrillers and action movies, cyberattacks are a reality and they are happening now. Our adversaries are varied – organised criminal groups, 'hacktivists', untrained teenagers and foreign states.
"The first duty of the government is to keep the nation safe. Any modern state cannot remain secure and prosperous without securing itself in cyberspace. That is why we are taking the decisive action needed to protect our country, our economy and our citizens."
MI5 chief Andrew Parker, in a rare interview with The Guardian published as the new measures were announced, indicated that Russia remains a major concern for the UK when it comes to cybercrime. "Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5's job to get in the way of that," he said.