Why Cyber Intelligence is more important now than ever before
“Perhaps the concept of a cyber war was over hyped” the words of Sir Jeremy Fleming, the UK’s British Spy Chief.
Sir Jeremy Fleming is head of Britain’s signal intelligence agency, GCHQ, and was addressing a major UK cyber conference in Wales recently. In his wide-ranging speech on cyber, he reinforced the message that cyber clearly matters to us all.
Fleming believes fears of an online war have not yet materialised, it been regarded by many as a cyber winter. Fleming also stated that the threat from Russia is a real one. His comments follow the UK and US statements saying that Russia was almost certainly responsible for a predawn cyber-attack on a US-based internet company.
Amongst the many clients that this company have is the Ukrainian military. Some cyber observers instinctively feel that Russia may be holding back on their most sophisticated capabilities. These capabilities could take down utility companies, power plants and destroy critical infrastructures.
In the darkest corners of the internet, vast groups of hackers either working directly with the Russian government or pledging their loyalty to President Putin continue to operate. Many observers believe that some of these Russian cyber operatives continue to look for new targets in countries that oppose their actions.
Fleming said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had created a rapidly evolving cyber battlefield that its western allies, including Britain, were still adapting to as the implications of a cyber war and the rapid public release of classified information influenced the conflict.
Sir Jeremy Fleming said “And at the moment, that means the war in Ukraine. It’s at the front of all of our minds. The suffering and broader humanitarian effects are terrible and we see the implications of indiscriminate warfare and Putin’s miscalculations play out on the battlefield.”
But we’re also seeing this conflict in near real time in information, cyber and technology spaces.
It is already a remarkable feature of this war just how much information about the behaviours and tactics of the Russian forces are out in the public domain. And how much intelligence has been released by Western Allies to challenge and get ahead of Putin’s actions.
Action is needed if we are to interject these attacks.
During his key note address Jeremy Fleming went on to say that partners in intelligence and the MOD formed the National Cyber Force or NCF. NCF has already made a huge impact from countering disinformation, to supporting the activities of militaries overseas, to aiding law enforcement in approaching criminal gangs. It is clear that the NCF is improving the UK’s defences.
He said “We know that to be a true cyber power, cyber security alone is not enough. That’s why with our partners in intelligence and MOD, we formed the National Cyber Force. It builds out from our world class cyber defence and resilience. And, it’s brought another level to the spectrum of national security work.”
The speech was delivered at the time when western allies and NATO remain on high alert over possible online assaults from Russia. Industry must remain vigilant against any possible threat of cyber-attacks. In the UK cyber-attacks have grown by 72% since the war in Ukraine began according to a recent business survey by cyber security company Bridewell.
Future generations rely on the strength of our cyber security. Such goals require long-term investment and patience. Alternatively, it is clear that immediate focus must be given to the threats facing us currently, meaning the war in Ukraine.
Commenting on the ongoing war Fleming said that they will continue to support Ukraine in advancing their cyber defences. In addition to this they are progressing with cyber resilience to ensure that UK businesses and Government did not suffer.
The UK conference ‘CYBERUK 2022’ brought many of the UK’s smartest and brightest cyber professionals together. The conferences transfers to Northern Ireland next year on the 19th – 20th April in Belfast.