The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed that it is going ahead with plans to form a Joint Cyber Unit reserve force of hackers and crackers with a view to fighting future battles in what the defence secretary calls 'the fifth domain.'
The move by the MoD to treat the internet and other computer networks as a new battleground follows the 20th century's expansion of the three military domains - land, air and sea - to include space. This weekend, defence secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed 'now there's a fifth [military domain]: cyber.
The MoD has released limited additional details regarding plans to form a Joint Cyber Unit reserve force of semi-civilians to respond to electronic threats over computer networks. The move was first announced in November 2011 as part of the UK Cyber Security Strategy, and further detailed in an update
(PDF warning) from the cabinet office just over a year later.
'We are constantly examining new ways to harness and attract the talents of the cyber security specialists that are needed for critical areas of work,
' the Cabinet Office claimed in its December 2012 update. 'To this end, the MoD is taking forward the development of a 'Cyber Reserve', allowing the Services to draw on the wider talent and skills of the nation in the cyber field. The exact composition is currently in development and a detailed announcement will follow in 2013.
While we're still waiting for that detailed announcement, a few more facts have come to light from defence secretary Hammond. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday
, Hammond explained that a budget of up to £500 million is being put aside to create the Joint Cyber Unit force, which will be comprised of industry experts who will be exempt from the rigorous fitness training requirements of the traditional armed forces.
'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,
' Hammond told the tabloid. 'You deter people by having an offensive capability. We will build in Britain a cyber strike capability so we can strike back in cyberspace against enemies who attack us, putting cyber alongside land, sea, air and space as a mainstream military activity. Our commanders can use cyber-weapons alongside conventional weapons in future conflicts.
A recruitment drive for the cyber defence force is due to take place next month.