Cyberattacks now a top threat to UK security, says secretary

Web attacks described as ‘tier one’ risk alongside terrorism

Britain's national security faces a serious threat from cyber attacks, according to home secretary Theresa May.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the National Security Strategy this afternoon, May placed international cyber attacks alongside terrorism as two of the most grave threats to the country's security.

National-level cyber attacks are a "new and growing danger", May said in an interview with the BBC. She highlighted that there was an important threat of attacks on government and business networks.

In the National Security Strategy, the government will identify different 'tiers' of threat to the country. The top level, 'tier one', includes terrorism, cyber attacks, national health pandemics and international military crises.

"We have to look at the whole picture [of security]," she told the broadcaster. "That is what we have been doing and that is not what has been done in the past."

The news follows a speech last week by Iain Lobban, head of GCHQ, the national intelligence centre. He said hundreds of malicious e-mails were being aimed at government computer networks each month.

GCHQ detects 20,000 malicious emails discovered inside government systems each month, 1,000 of which have been deliberately targeted to its departments, he said. Intellectual property, both commercial and military is being stolen on a "massive scale", citizens are now being attacked successfully for economic gain, and critical infrastructure is under threat.

Lobban also warned that current security technology and policies were not up to the job of stemming this tide and perhaps never will be in their current form.

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