The United States and the UK have announced that they will be creating “cyber cells,” intelligence units which will share information and conduct simulated cyber attacks in an effort to enhance the security cooperation between the two countries.
“We have got hugely capable cyber defences,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron said about the agreement. “We have got the expertise, and that is why we should combine as we are going to, that is, set up cyber cells on both sides of the Atlantic to share information.”
Together, the National Security Agency and the GCHQ will lead a series of “cyber war games.” The first exercise is planned for later this year and will involve the Bank of England as well as other commercial banks in London and on Wall Street.
Additional simulations will test the resilience of the computer systems that protect both countries’ national critical infrastructure, such as electrical power grids and transportation networks.
Cameron is currently on a two-day visit to Washington. In addition to speaking to President Obama about the security arrangement, he is also expected to approach Obama about how they can enlist the help of tech companies such as Google and Facebook in reading the encrypted messages of terrorist operatives.
Earlier this week, Cameron came under fire by privacy advocates when he announced that, if re-elected, he would seek to institute a ban on encrypted online communication apps including WhatsApp and Snapchat.
His proposed legislation is a direct response to the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo that occurred earlier in January.
The news of a joint US-UK cyber intelligence effort comes just ahead of a publication by the GCHQ, which reveals that 80 percent of large British firms were hacked last year, forcing some to pay as much as £1.5 million in legal fees and recovery costs.