Members of the Offensive Cyber Working Group, with King’s College London, have today released a new report which argues that the success of the new UK National Cyber Force (NCF) will be determined by the quality of the leadership, strategy, structures and processes that shape its growth and operational use.
As part of the OCWG’s commitment to advancing debate on offensive cyber in the UK and beyond, this report is one step in understanding how offensive cyber will be organised within the UK through the NCF. This builds upon other activity by the OCWG, including its November 2020 Scoping Workshop Report and its new ‘Global Challenges in Offensive Cyber’ Seminar Series.
- Ambitions for the NCF should be realistic. Offensive cyber is but one of several components of cyber strategy. The starting point for a responsible, “democratic cyber power” should include improved cyber security and resilience.
- The NCF has a wide variety of possible missions, from countering state threats, terrorism to serious and organised crime. It cannot pursue all these missions equally well. A balance of counter-cyber operations and support to military operations is arguably the best (and least controversial) use of the NCF.
- More active coordination and leadership of cyber strategy from the centre of government is required. The future of UK offensive cyber should be decided holistically by ministers, not by competition between the NCF’s constituent departments.
- The NCF will collaborate closely with allies such as US Cyber Command and the UK Government has repeatedly emphasised its commitment to contribute cyber capabilities within the NATO alliance. There remains a balance to be struck between what can be done with allies and what will require sovereign capabilities.
About the authors
Dr Joe Devanny is a Lecturer in National Security Studies and deputy director of the Centre for Defence Studies in the Department of War Studies (King’s College London).
Dr Andrew Dwyer is an Addison Wheeler Research Fellow in the Department of Geography (Durham University) and co-director of the UK Offensive Cyber Working Group.
Amy Ertan is a doctoral candidate in the Information Security Group (Royal Hollway), non-resident Visiting Scholar (NATO Cooperative Cyber Security Centre of Excellence), Cybersecurity Fellow (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs), and co-director of the UK Offensive Cyber Working Group.
Dr Tim Stevens in a Senior Lecturer in Global Security in the Department of War Studies (King’s College London) and head of the KCL Cyber Security Research Group.
A panel discussion and audience Q&A to launch this report will be held live online on Tuesday 4 May between 3pm and 4.30pm. It will be chaired by Professor Lady Moira Andrews (KCL), with a panel including the report’s authors and invited guests, including Marcus Willett CB OBE (Senior Cyber Adviser at the International Institute for Security Studies, GCHQ’s first Director Cyber and former deputy head).