The British government official has warned that they are prepared to go on the offensive in retaliation to the growing number of “significant attacks” on IT infrastructure, much of which it is claimed is “state sponsored”.

Lord West of Spithead, parliamentary under-secretary for security and counter-terrorism, told the Observer that the UK was under daily cyber attack from overseas, claiming that there had been “300 significant attacks” on the government’s core computer networks in the last year.

West claimed that many of the attacks were coming from state sponsored agencies and, although he refused to reveal who they were, he claimed that the UK would be prepared to go on the offensive in order to stay ahead of the hackers.

“If I went and bombed a power station in France, that would be an act of war,” he said. “If I went on to the net and took out a power station, is that an act of war? One could argue that it was.

“If some state sponsor keeps trying to get into your systems, probably for industrial espionage, are you going to go back into their system and bugger it up? We’re all capable of doing these things. At the moment we wouldn’t do that, but maybe this is where we need to have discussions.

“I’m very worried they [terrorists] may start becoming cuter and try to use our connectivity to have a go at our critical infrastructure, things [that control] our services, our food [distribution] and water supply,” he said. Terrorists were currently “not brilliant” at attempting this sort of attack on infrastructure, he added, but they would learn fast and “we’ve got to be ahead of them”.

His comments come after Google accused two high profile Chinese computing schools as the perpetrators behind an attack on its services earlier this year, whilst British security agency MI5 has warned that tackling espionage conducted by Chinese and Russian agents is taking up an increasing amount of its time.

Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, has also expressed concerns over attacks from overseas on American systems.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to our top stories.

If you want to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, please submit the form below.