By Robert Hutton
The U.K. has set up a secret cybersecurity control center staffed by experts from the intelligence services and some of Britain’s largest companies to coordinate the defense of their computer systems.
The existence of the “Fusion Cell,” which operates at an undisclosed location in London, will be announced in a speech today by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude. It was established last year with 80 companies from five sectors: finance, defense, energy, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals. There are now 160 companies involved.
Along with a secure web portal, the Fusion Cell enables security experts from the companies, working alongside intelligence officers, to monitor and share information about developing threats, according to an official familiar with its operations who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“This innovative partnership is breaking new ground through a truly collaborative partnership for sharing information on threats,” Maude said in a statement. “The initiative meets a key aim of our cybersecurity strategy to make the U.K. one of the safest places to do business in cyberspace.”
The volume of attacks against both government and corporate computer systems is increasing rapidly, the official said. Different businesses face different kinds of threat, with the finance industry seeing large numbers of attempted frauds and pharmaceutical companies experiencing a smaller number of more targeted attempts to steal intellectual property. The official declined to comment on the origin of these attacks.
The Fusion Cell is staffed by around 12 analysts. The intelligence services are represented by officers from Government Communication Headquarters, the U.K.’s signals intelligence unit, and the Security Service, known as MI5. The corporate partners provide computer experts on secondment.
While some companies were initially cautious about passing on details of incidents in which their security had been broken, the official said that over the course of the pilot project they’d become willing to share more information with each other.