The head of a military intelligence warns saying that a full-blown cyber-attack can cripple a country within a few minutes.
Phil Osborn, Air Marshal, claimed that the UK was at risk of “falling behind” due to the growth of cyber-attacks and information warfare.
In a very unusual public address, the Chief of Defense Intelligence claimed that the ability of opponents to attack without it being clear who was accountable had increased the probabilities of confrontation via “miscalculation”
When speaking at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London, he urged the politicians and military commanders to be ready to “act first” when faced with potential threats before it’s too late.
He said: “Depending on opposition capability and intent and, critically, our resilience, a full-scale cyber confrontation could have the nationally strategic crippling effects in minutes and hours.
Without change we risk falling behind in today and tomorrow’s full-spectrum confrontation. More of the same will not cut it.
We need to compete, sometimes pro-actively, and certainly just not observe. To wait for risks to mature before action is to contemplate strategic failure.
Our aim should be to understand first, to decide first and then, if necessary, to act first across the physical and the virtual.”
Air Marshal, Osborn claims that “The aggressive application of machine-learning, artificial intelligence and quantum computing to full-spectrum operations is likely to be as disruptive to modern warfare as air power was some 100 years ago.”
When asked about the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy, he said, just three months ago, the prospect of a state-sponsored attack via chemical weapons in an English city would be “inconceivable”.
He said, “For some, this ability to wage hidden and difficult-to-attribute warfare in cyberspace and elsewhere brings the opportunity for them to be much more aggressive and to take risks.”
He added saying, “We can see numerous examples: unprecedented industrial espionage activity against the UK and allies, private security contractors being used in high-end capability warfare in Syria, cyber attacks against national infrastructure and reputation across Europe, information operations that attempt to pervert political process and frustrate the rule of law, and attempted assassinations.”
Air Marshal Osborn believes that “deception and counter-deception” operations will be “critical” when dealing with such threats.
He said, “We need to have a convincing justification and narrative for our actions while countering opposition disinformation and lies with the truth.”