The £500m question

This morning’s Observer column.

The news that, according to the national security review at least, cyber attack comes second only to terrorism as the gravest security threat facing the nation will have come as a great surprise to most citizens. We are conscious of the annoyances of malware, viruses, worms, spam and phishing, but for most these are just minor irritations, not threats to the nation's survival.

Yet the other day we had the foreign secretary gravely intoning why, in the midst of the most savage spending cuts in living memory, it is suddenly necessary to give an extra £500m to GCHQ to protect us against nemesis in cyberspace. At the same time, in America, we see the Pentagon setting up a whole new cyber command, USCybercom, with all the usual paraphernalia and awash with funding.

What, you might ask, is going on?

There seem to be two broad answers to the question…