Lt. Gen. Tom Copinger-Symes, the deputy commander of the United Kingdom’s Strategic Command responsible for the Ministry of Defence’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, spoke about the UK’s “hunt forward” operations.
These operations involve military cyber experts deploying to foreign nations to detect malicious activity on their networks, similar to the defensive activity pioneered by U.S. Cyber Command. While these operations were softly referenced in the UK’s Defence Command Paper 2023, it is now confirmed that the British Armed Forces have been conducting such operations.
General Tom highlighted the significance of partnerships with industry in the cyber domain, emphasizing the critical role of industry in gathering cyberthreat data. He also discussed the importance of the electromagnetic spectrum in modern warfare, noting that the spectrum’s contestation levels, environmental difficulties, and the ability to fight within it have become increasingly vital.
Furthermore, the conversation touched on the concept of “spectrum superiority,” acknowledging that absolute supremacy is challenging to achieve but gaining temporary superiority in the spectrum when needed is crucial. General Tom underscored the importance of the spectrum in the digital age, as it plays a central role in communication and data sharing.
Regarding the National Cyber Force (NCF), General Tom expressed confidence in its development, even though it is not yet fully staffed. The NCF aims to integrate personnel from both the Defence and intelligence communities and is set to be fully operational within the next three to five years. He recognized that the challenge is not primarily financial but lies in attracting and developing skilled individuals, emphasizing the importance of fostering a cyber workforce through initiatives like bursaries.
The discussion also touched on the differences between the NCF and U.S. Cyber Command, with General Tom noting that while the UK is learning from the U.S., their approach might vary in some respects. The UK’s focus on integration and partnerships with industry were highlighted as critical lessons learned from the conflict in Ukraine. General Tom emphasized the importance of collaboration between the military and industry to address the evolving challenges in the cyber domain effectively.
In conclusion, General Tom Copinger-Symes provided insights into the UK’s evolving approach to cybersecurity, emphasizing the importance of partnerships, the electromagnetic spectrum, and the development of cyber capabilities in a rapidly changing digital landscape.