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US, UK declare 'cyber war' on each other

The U.S. and the United Kingdom will fake a cyber war against one another in a test of each country’s cyber defenses, British Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC ahead of a Friday talk with President Obama.

The two world leaders will cover a number of national security subjects in their talk, but Cameron is also expected to pressure the president to push technology companies to more closely monitor online communications and share the information with the government. Cameron has threatened to ban encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp if they don’t provide access for the government.

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The prime minister’s office said the two will also discuss how to better improve cyber threat information-sharing between the U.S. and UK. British counterintelligence agency MI5 will establish a “cyber cell” in the U.S., and the FBI will do the same in England.

Cyberattacks, Cameron told the BBC, are “one of the big modern threats we face.”

That is why the two countries are launching a series of digital assaults against each other, testing the resiliency of different sectors. The prime minister’s office said the first cyber exercise will target the financial sector, including the Bank of England and commercial banks.

Future exercises will “test critical national infrastructure,” the British government said.

The recent terrorist attack by militant Islamist brothers on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo left 12 dead and raised questions about how to best track potential terrorist threats online.

“We need to be able in extremis to interrupt the contact between terrorists,” Cameron said.

Other digital attacks, including the recent destructive digital assault that left Sony’s networks crippled and exposed its internal documents, show that cyberattacks can have far-reaching ramifications.

“It's also about protecting people's data, people's finances — these attacks can have real consequences to people's prosperity.”

For Cameron, one solution is to ensure there is no form of electronic communication the government can’t read. Ahead of his meeting with Obama, the president has stayed quiet on whether he agrees with the British leader.

The two will hold their confab mid-morning on Friday.