A national cyber security centre to combat the growing threat of foreign states and criminal gangs hacking into the public sector and enterprise IT infrastructure will be announced later this month by Gordon Brown.

The agency will form the centrepiece of an updated national security strategy from No 10 after a major review, according to the Guardian, which reported the details yesterday.

Government officials will centralise national cybersecurity strategy under this new umbrella agency.

The prime minister is also tipped to appoint a cyber security czar, who will oversee the new centre and lead the UK response to infrastructure hacking attempts. The move echoes the creation of a similar role in the US by President Obama.

Currently, the UK tackles hacking threats through a number of agencies. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the newly-formed Metropolitan Police's e-crime unit investigate cyber crime. The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) - attached to the security services - is responsible for co-ordinating investigations into hacking attempts directed against the UK and protecting critical UK online communications.

The Guardian said only 18 months ago government departments were refusing to answer questions from peers or MPs on whether there had been any cyber attacks on Whitehall.

Labour peer Lord Harris of Haringey, member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, tabled questions asking for details of cyber attacks to every ministry in Whitehall, but the government refused to reveal any information.

A co-ordinated statement issued by every ministry, from the Home Office to the Ministry of Defence, said: "It is not in the interests of the UK's national security for departments to confirm whether they hold information about attacks against their IT systems. This would enable individuals to deduce how successful the UK is in detecting these attacks and so assist such persons in testing the effectiveness of the UK's IT defences."