Digital era giving new and unprecedented challenges, says GCHQ director

GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming at CYBERUK 2019Image: GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming at CYBERUK 2019. Photo: courtesy of Crown copyright.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) director Jeremy Fleming said that although the digital era has been offering extraordinary opportunity, innovation and progress, it has been presenting new and unprecedented challenges for policymakers.

During a speech at CYBERUK 2019, the flagship cyber security event of National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the GCHQ director said that technology, with all the benefits it has brought, has also exposed people to growing complexity, uncertainty and risk.

In his speech on the cyber security mission in the third decade of the internet age, Fleming outlined how more planning is needed to remove the burden of cyber security away from the individual. Fleming’s statement was based on the recently held UK Cyber Security survey, which found that just 15% of people knew how to protect themselves online.

The GCHQ director said that the agency will continue to closely work with device manufacturers and online platform providers to incorporate security into their products and services at the design stage.

Fleming talked about the significant impact of the Active Cyber Defence programme of NCSC which leverages automation to prevent attacks at scale to make the internet a safe platform for people to use.

In March, the UK’s hosted share of global phishing came down under 2% for the first time, from the 5.4% recorded in 2016 when the Active Cyber Defence programme was rolled out.

The GCHQ director said that the department is planning to scale the capability for all business sectors to create a genuinely national effort to handle malicious cyber actors, criminal malware or people on the Dark Web trading credit card details.

Fleming said: “Since its formation, the NCSC has co-ordinated responses to some of the biggest cyber threats the country has faced. Our incident management team has worked on more than 1,500 significant cyber security incidents.

“And using automation, it has reduced the harm from thousands of attacks a month. And it has played a major role in dealing with the strategic threats we face from hostile states.”

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