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Computers, recruiters and geeks, not guns and grunts?

Computers, recruiters and geeks, not guns and grunts?

Posted on 8th June 2020

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Wars, in general, bring huge advances in technology and medicine.  Unfortunately, they do this by killing a lot of people, so we have the rather ridiculous situation by which the military hardware tries to kill more people “more efficiently” while the medical services try to keep them alive by using their own medical tech to do so.  However, as I’ve written on several occasions in the last year, the way in which the armed forces of the major powers are changing means that, increasingly, the wars of the future will be fought by cybermen and other robots.  

In the meantime, military intelligence has moved on and the threat of cyber-attack, often to undermine civilian as well as military infrastructure, has scaled up substantially. The cyber security industry is growing massively, as is the cyber-crime industry to which the good guys must respond and, we trust, defeat the baddies. When this is mixed into the industrial/military world, we get things like the Stuxnet virus, allegedly concocted by the US and Israel, plus, I am sure, its equivalent in China and Russia.

Consequently, the news, reported at the tail-end of last week, that the UK’s first cyber regiment has been launched, is, in some respects, a surprise.  I mean, what took them so long?  It is over a decade ago that GCHQ first won prizes for its social media campaigns to recruit geeks to keep our enemies’ cyber-attacks at bay.   Stuxnet was first uncovered in 2010.  The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), published its report/book, “Evolution of the Cyber Domain: The Implications for National and Global Security” in 2015. As its authors point out, “… many nations are developing military cyber capabilities and the capacity to conduct military cyber operations for their armed forces; the most powerful and agile violent extremists are also acquiring or developing, as well as employing, such capabilities.

This new, or rather, strictly speaking, reformed unit is the 13th Signal Regiment, which was first launched during World War II to pioneer the application of wireless radios. It was renamed in 1959 and deployed in Berlin during the Cold War, before it was disbanded in 1994.  Now, it has been reformed after the government announced last year that it was preparing to unlock £22m to create a series of centres focused on cyber warfare operations. Based at multiple key locations the regiment will be built around a core of 250 specialist servicemen and women who possess relevant high-end technical skills.

Traditionally, the military have struggled to compete with salaries on offer in the private sector.  Also, and this is a genuine question, I do wonder how they go about their recruitment?  In the past, there have been national recruitment advertising campaigns, plus the covert ‘tap on the shoulder’ and the other normal methods of civil service recruitment - which worked so well in the case of Blunt, Cairncross, Burgess, Philby and McLean. Today, when the army struggles to recruit generally, will the (almost certainly increasing) need for the outstanding talent that will be required to fill the boots of bigger and better cyber regiments be left in the hands of a single national contractor, or will it be open to the market? My view is that more diversity of throughput of candidates would help fill some of these jobs.  Clearly, screening will be vital, but given the importance of this area to the nation’s security, there ought to be some way for the recruitment industry as a whole to have some input here?

Freddie Kydd, Be-IT

Posted in News, Opinion

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