The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced £22m in funding to support the establishment of new British Army cyber operations centres across the country.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt made the announcement to provide funding at the Nato Cyber Defence Pledge conference in London.

Speaking at the conference, Mordaunt highlighted the need for the UK and Nato member states to recognise offensive cyber as pivotal to modern warfare.

Mordaunt said: “We know all about the dangers. Whether the attacks come from Russia, China or North Korea. Whether they come from hacktivists, criminals or extremists. Whether its malware or fake news. Cyber can bring down our national infrastructure and undermine our democracy.

“It’s time to pay more than lip service to cyber. We must convince our adversaries their advances simply aren’t worth the cost. Cyber enemies think they can act with impunity. We must show them they can’t. That we are ready to respond at a time and place of our choosing in any domain, not just the virtual world.”

The new British Army cyber operations centres will be responsible for providing round-the-clock information and analysis. Other functions of these centres will include dispelling misinformation and providing information on emerging digital threats.

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They will use a range of sources including both national intelligence and open source data to give an upper hand to the UK Army in the information warfare sphere.

The MOD plans to use the cyber centres to support overseas operations, humanitarian missions, and efforts to protect digital communications within the country.

Force Troops Command general officer commanding major general Tom Copinger-Symes said: “These new cyber centres will allow the army and defence to transform the way we use data, at speed, so that we can compete with our adversaries in a way fit for the 21st Century.

“It’s time to pay more than lip service to cyber. We must convince our adversaries their advances simply aren’t worth the cost.”

“Combining artificial intelligence with our military analysts will help us better understand threats and exploit opportunities, in turn enabling us to get the truth out much more rapidly, quashing the noise of disinformation from our enemies.”

The funding is part of the military’s increasing work in cyber capabilities as part of the £1.9bn investment in the National Cyber Security Strategy announced in November 2016.

The UK has since established National Cyber Security Centre, which acts as a forum for government, defence agencies and the private sector to discuss and develop cybersecurity concepts.

Furthermore, the Defence Cyber School was set up in March 2018 to train the next generation of cybersecurity experts.

The new British Army cyber operations centres are expected to work with British Army unit 77 Brigade. They will also coordinate with joint and other national security organisations.

Construction work in support of these facilities is anticipated to commence next year, while operations are due to begin in the early 2020s.