Military ‘too dependent on computers’

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The armed forces are now so dependent on computers that their ability to operate could be “fatally compromised” by a sustained cyber attack, MPs have warned.

The Commons Defence Committee said the cyber threat to UK security had the ability to evolve at “almost unimaginable speed” and questioned whether the Government had could deal with it.

It called on ministers to take a more hands-on approach to ensure proper contingency plans were in place.

The committee heard evidence that entire combat units, such as aircraft and warships, could be rendered completely dysfunctional by a cyber attack.

Experts warned an enemy could seek to target radar or satellites to create a “deceptive picture” in the military command structure while increased use of unmanned drones and battlefield robots potentially added to vulnerability.

“The evidence we received leaves us concerned that with the armed forces now so dependent on information and communications technology, should such systems suffer a sustained cyber attack, their ability to operate could be fatally compromised,” the committee said.

“The Government should set out details of the contingency plans it has in place should such an attack occur. If it has none, it should say so – and urgently create some.”

The committee accused ministers of “complacency” over the failure to develop rules of engagement in case of a cyber attack.