UK to send Royal Navy warship through disputed South China Sea in challenge to Beijing

A Royal Navy warship will sail through the South China Sea in an effort to assert freedom of navigation rights in waters where Beijing is increasingly extending its control.

HMS Sutherland, a Type 23 frigate, will travel through the key trading lane after concluding a visit to Australia, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced.

China claims large areas of the South China Sea and has been bolstering its military deployments there, including reclaiming land on reefs and atolls to build air bases.

Mr Williamson made the announcement during a visit to Australia to meet his counterpart Marise Payne in Sydney, where they discussed North Korea, cyber warfare and terrorism. The trip was also designed to push Australia to buy the UK’s Type 23 replacement, the BAE-built Type 26.

He told The Australian: “[Sutherland] will be sailing through the South China Sea and making it clear our navy has a right to do that.

“World dynamics are shifting so greatly. The US can only concentrate on so many things at once. The US is looking for other countries to do more. This is a great opportunity for the UK and Australia to do more, to exercise leadership.”

The US Navy also conducts freedom-of-navigation cruises in the South China Sea as a way of disputing Chinese influence.

Asked whether Sutherland would sail within 12 nautical miles – the UN-defined distance indicating territorial waters – of disputed areas or artificial Chinese islands, Mr Williamson declined to comment but added: “We absolutely support the US approach on this, we very much support what the US has been doing.”

Last summer the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel chain. China called the move a “serious political and military provocation” within its territorial waters.

Mr Williamson added in an interview with broadcaster ABC: “It’s very important that we demonstrate that these are seas anyone can pass through and we’ll be making sure that the Royal Navy will protect those rights for international shipping.

“Australia [and] Britain see China as a country of great opportunities, but we shouldn’t be blind to the ambition that China has and we’ve got to defend our national security interests.

“We’ve got to ensure that any form of malign intent is countered and we see increasing challenges – it’s not just from China, it’s from Russia, it’s from Iran – and we’ve got to be constantly making sure that our security measures, our critical national infrastructure is protected.”

The UK’s frigates, which specialise in anti-submarine warfare, also have a prominent role in drug interdiction and other policing at sea.

Sutherland, which entered service in 1997, has previously been tasked with shadowing Russian Navy vessels as they passed through the English Channel, and escorting the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth during her first sea trials.

She is currently on a seven-month deployment to Australia, the Far East and and the Gulf.

World news in pictures

World news in pictures

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Australia, the UK and the US, along with New Zealand and Canada, form the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.

In December 2016 the US announced it would deploy its top-of-the-line stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor, to Australia as part of a plan to maintain its “enduring interests” in the region.

Then-head of the US Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris – now Donald Trump’s pick to be his ambassador to Australia – signed an agreement with Canberra to base enough US military assets in the country to constitute a “credible combat power” amid mounting tensions in the South China Sea.

Mr Harris has been outspoken about China’s “increasingly assertive” moves in the region while Mr Trump has previously accused Beijing of pursuing a “repressive vision” and designing economic policies to weaken America.

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NCC Group recruits new CEO

NCC Group recruits new CEO

Manchester-headquartered IT services provider NCC Group has recruited a new chief executive with an extensive track record in the professional services B2B and cyber security sectors.

Adam Palser, who will join the group on 1 December 2017, was previously the chief executive of public services provider NSL, which had more than 3,000 employees. He joined NSL in 2015 and led the transformation and sale of the business for its private equity owner, leaving in March 2017.

Before that, he held a number of senior roles at QinetiQ between 2003 and 2013, most recently as EMEA business development director. Prior to that, Palser had responsibility for QinetiQ’s cyber, information warfare and professional services businesses.

Palser will be paid an annual salary of £425,000, together with an annual bonus of up to 100 per cent of salary subject to achieving certain performance criteria, of which 35 per cent of any payment will be deferred in shares for two years. He will also be eligible for a long-term incentive plan award of up to 100 per cent of salary subject to achieving certain performance criteria.

With effect from Palser’s appointment, current executive chairman Chris Stone will become non-executive chairman and current interim chief executive Brian Tenner will resume his role as chief financial officer.

Palser said: “NCC Group is an exciting business with a wealth of talent in the cyber security and risk space. The $75bn global cybersecurity industry is growing rapidly as awareness increases of the external threats faced by all organisations; NCC Group is well-placed to protect them using its tools, skills and experience.”

“I am very much looking forward to working with Chris, the board and my new colleagues to ensure that NCC Group can fulfil its potential and play its role in protecting the systems and networks on which modern business and society relies.”

Stone said: “On behalf of the board I am delighted to welcome Adam as NCC Group’s new CEO. He comes with a wealth of business experience and a track record of success in the professional services B2B and cyber security sectors. I am confident that NCC Group will flourish under his leadership.”

Tenner took over as interim chief executive in March 2017. His appointment followed the surprise departure of chief executive Rob Cotton with immediate effect after 17 years with the business.

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Cyber-intelligence staff among nearly 2000 BAE Systems redundancies

The world’s tenth largest cyber-security consultants have axed 1,900 jobs in the UK, including over 100 in its cyber defence department. The vast bulk of the wide-spread redundancies will come from BAE Systems traditional military and defence line, as new CEO Charles Woodburn continues to push the professional services firm toward a streamlined approach and a renewed focus on digital technologies.

Over the course of 2016, British multinational defence, security, and aerospace company BAE Systems saw revenue in security consulting hit 14.2% to $290 million. The group, headquartered in London, was found to be the world’s tenth largest security and cyber-security consulting firm, while appearing to be successfully diversifying into the sector to add to its more traditional portfolio, which includes a number of state and private sector solutions. Despite this success, however, the new Chief Executive of Britain’s biggest defence contractor has announced plans for more than 1,900 redundancies in the UK.

Experts had anticipated that Charles Woodburn, who took the reins at BAE three months ago, would attempt to make expenditure reductions by scaling back on employment, however the job cuts are double what most had expected. The organisational changes were said to be targeted at delivering the company a more competitive edge, empowering it to renew its focus on technological innovation – a market of growing global significance across all industries – by ‘streamlining’ the organisation via the shaving away of whole layers of management. The job losses will be phased over the coming three year period, and will equate to almost 6%of BAE’s 34,600 British workforce.

Cyber-intelligence staff among nearly 2,000 BAE Systems redundancies

This new direction is partially motivated by slowing international demand for BAE Systems’ traditional military engineering services. The firm had been hoping for a large Typhoon deal with Saudi Arabia – which ordered 72 of the aircraft 10 years ago. The aircraft cost approximately £4.43 billion, and the full weapons system is expected to cost approximately £10 billion – however in 2010, BAE Systems pleaded guilty to a United States court, to charges of false accounting and making misleading statements in connection with sales to the Saudi regime. Since then, the Typhoon deal has so far failed to materialise, while smaller existing contracts with other Gulf nations are not enough to keep up full production. Subsequently, the largest cuts will hit BAE’s factories in Lancashire – where up to 750 jobs will go. Manufacturing in the North-West of England has been haemorrhaging jobs in recent years, seeing 77,000 jobs leave the region since 2006, and the latest news from BAE will further compound that decline.

Following the restructure, which also strips out levels of regional management, the company appears to be moving towards a greater focus on technological innovation. Alongside the redundancies, Woodburn announced the appointment of a Chief Technology Officer to the Board, with former Head of UK Programmes Nigel Whitehead being promoted to the new position. Conflictingly, however, the job cuts also include a number of roles disappearing from BAE systems cyber-intelligence operations.

“Short-sighted”

With cyber-security at the forefront of business and governmental anxiety, thanks to high-profile attacks on the National Health Service in the UK, and the National Security Association in America – one of the world’s most controversial and powerful state surveillance operations, the segment looks to be a high priority for investment over coming years. Meanwhile, with the world’s biggest cyber-security consultancy Deloitte having themselves been the victim of a hack, the situation seems ripe for competitors such as BAE to siphon off business from the Big Four member. Regardless of this opportunity, the Applied Intelligence unit, which helps companies and governments fight cyber-warfare, will downsize by 150 personnel.

Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, which represents a portion of the BAE workforce, meanwhile pledged to fight what it called a “devastatingly short-sighted” move, while refusing to rule out potential industrial action. Mr Woodburn said BAE would be working “very closely” with the unions over a coming 30-day consultation period, adding, “We believe a good proportion of jobs will be voluntary redundancy.”

GMB, another large general union, meanwhile called for state intervention, with Ross Murdoch, a GMB National Officer, stating, “Given the ever increasing likelihood of no deal on Brexit, GMB calls on the Government to reverse this decision and prioritise this work.”

MPs in Parliament also joined calls for the Government to step in, and prevent job losses, but Business Minister Claire Perry told the House of Commons, “it would be wrong for the Government to interfere in the company’s restructuring.”

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BAE Systems awarded contract for Naval Warfare Center Aircraft Division equipment

BAE Systems has received a $76 million contract from the U.S. Navy to help create important communications and electronics.

The equipment for the Naval Warfare Center Aircraft Division allows for secure communications. The equipment is in use by several branches of the military, including the Army and Air Force, and other government and Defense Department agencies.

Over 22 months, the company will work to support “the rapid design, development, fabrication, customization and life-cycle maintenance of new and existing communication and electronic platforms for the Naval Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD),” according to a company announcement.

Additionally, BAE Systems will work to support tests, evaluations, installations, integrations and certifications of mission equipment and systems for NAWCAD’s Special Communications Mission Solutions Division.

“We perform expert, integrated engineering and sustainment support services that meet the development demands of the Navy,” Mark Keeler, acting president of BAE Systems’ Intelligence and Security sector, said in the announcement.

The work will reportedly take place in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Chesapeake, Virginia; and St. Inigoes, Maryland.

The mission of BAE systems is to deliver “a broad range of solutions and services including intelligence analysis, cyber operations, IT, systems development, systems integration, and operations and maintenance to enable militaries and governments to recognize, manage, and defeat threats. The company takes pride in supporting critical national security missions that protect the nation and those who serve,” according to the release.

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Irish electricity transmission system operator EirGrid targeted by a nation-state actorSecurity Affairs

The Irish electricity transmission system operator EirGrid was targeted by a state-sponsored actor, the hackers weren’t discovered at least for two months.

The Irish electricity transmission system operator EirGrid was targeted by a state-sponsored attack. EirGrid is the state-owned company that operates the electricity transmission grid across the Ireland, it also supplies the distribution network operated by ESB Networks that powers every electricity customer in the country.

According to the Independent.ie, a nation-state actor, using IP addresses sourced in Ghana and Bulgaria targeted the company. The hackers first gained access to a Vodafone network used by EirGrid in the UK in April, then they compromised the routers used by Irish operator in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The hackers were able to install “a virtual wire tap”, also known as Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) tunnel into Eirgrid’s Vodafone router located in Shotton. The GRE allowed them to access the unencrypted traffic sent to and from the companies.

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