GCHQ Boss Warns Of Growing Cyber Threat‎ To UK

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The United Kingdom is facing a ‘credible threat’ to its critical infrastructure from an increasing number of cyber attacks, the boss of GCHQ has warned

The UK is facing ‘real and credible’ threats from cyber attacks on its critical infrastructure, the director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has warned.

Ian Lobban was speaking during an event at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, during which he warned of increasing sophisticated cyber attacks.

GCHQ is the UK agency responsible for gathering intelligence, eavesdropping and breaking codes.

Credible Threat

“The threat is a real and credible one,” said Lobban.

“It is true we have seen the use of cyber techniques by one nation on another to bring diplomatic or economic pressure to bear,” Lobban was quoted as saying by Reuters. However he did not provide specific details.

The news comes at a time when the Metropolitan Police Commissioner warned about a shocking lack of resources at the cybercrime unit of the Met. This was despite a poll in which more than 80 percent of UK people said they were against the recent cuts in funding for the Police Central e-Crime Unit.

While the PCeU police unit is responsible for combating the rising wave of online fraud and cybercrime on a day-to-day basis, the warning from Lobban is potentially more serious, as it concerns national security.

National Security

Indeed, sinister threats to the UK and its core infrastructure, such as electricity supplies, the emergency services, communication networks and food and water supplies is a growing problem, he warned.

The head of the country’s communications spy agency also warned that government systems are targeted 1,000 times each month.

He said that such attacks threatened Britain’s economic future and added some countries were already using cyber assaults to put pressure on other nations.

“Cyberspace is contested every day, every hour, every minute, every second,” he said. The Internet lowered “the bar for entry to the espionage game,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Symantec, for example, recently said that early versions of Stuxnet were targeting industrial control systems, without the help of any vulnerability. Instead, the malware abused Windows’ AutoRun feature to compromise machines through infected USB devices.

According to Lobban, ministers are looking at areas that needed investment and to be prioritised, as part of the government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, along with a Treasury spending review, as part of the coalition government’s £6 billion deficit reduction plans.

He also warned of the importance of keeping systems fully patched with the latest updates.