MoD raises first Cyber Regiment to secure defence networks from cyber threats

The Ministry of Defence has launched the first dedicated Cyber Regiment that is tasked to protect vital defence networks at home and on operations overseas from cyber threats.

Earlier today, the Ministry of Defence announced the raising of 13th Signal Regiment as part of the 1st (UK) Signal Brigade under the command of 6th (UK) Division. The division, the first dedicated Cyber Regiment in the armed forces, is tasked with conducting information manoeuvre and unconventional warfare in support of the armed forces.

13th Signal Regiment will not only secure digital communications equipment and channels used by the armed forces, but will also work with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to provide secure networks for all military communications and will provide the basis of the new Army Cyber Information Security Operations Centre.

The primary objective of the new cyber regiment is not only to secure existing digital communication lines, but to provide specialist technical support for a hub to test and implement next generation information capabilities as well. This will ensure that the Armed Forces will enjoy an edge in future cyber operations against enemy states.

"Our adversaries and hostile actors are operating in cyberspace right now, creating a new cyber frontline – alongside the traditional domains of Land, Sea and Air – without physical borders but also needing to be defended.

"Secure communications are the foundation for any successful operation and 13th Signal Regiment will provide ‘digital armour’ around personnel operating overseas, giving commanders and their soldiers the ability to operate with confidence in their communications systems, often while working in challenging conditions," Ministry of Defence said in a press release.

"This is a step-change in the modernisation of the UK Armed Forces for information warfare. Cyber-attacks are every bit as deadly as those faced on the physical battlefield, so we must prepare to defend ourselves from all those who would do us harm and 13th Signal Regiment is a vital addition to that defence," said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

Cyber Regiment will comprise experts from all three defence services

The Cyber Regiment will be built around a core of 250 specialist servicemen and women with relevant high-end technical skills and will be based at multiple key locations around a Headquarters in Blandford, Dorset. To raise the dedicated regiment, specialist personnel have been brought in from 15 different cap badges in the Army as well as from the Royal Navy and RAF. The regiment will eventually field a number of Cyber Protection Teams who will secure the cyber domain for troops deployed on military operations.

"The re-formation of 13th Signal Regiment is an exciting step forward as the Royal Signals, Army and wider Defence rapidly drives up their potency and resilience in the information environment and cyber domain," said Brigadier John Collyer, Commander 1st (UK) Signal Brigade.

"The stakes are high and our success is increasingly and critically reliant on focusing our brightest men and women onto the opportunities and risks that underpin our operations – both home and away," he added.

In October 2018, The Times revealed that the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ were planning to set up an "offensive-cyber force" to respond effectively to hostile states, domestic cyber gangs and terrorists.

Sources told The Times that the upcoming cyber-force, the creation of which was not acknowledged by the government at that time, would include experts from the military, security services, and industry and will not only be required to respond effectively to cyber threats from Russia, but also to deter criminal gangs, paedophile rings, and people-traffickers.

According to The Times, GCHQ and the MoD were at loggerheads over the command structure of the offensive cyber-force. As per a Times source, while the military wanted it to be a high-level war-fighting force that could do things like counter-missile programmes, politicians wanted a tactical force that focussed on combating crime and domestic terror threats. The new force was expected to increase the number of available personnel in offensive cyber roles by as much as four times.

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