The UK’s National Cyber Force has been running “daily” hacking operations in support of military deployments abroad, as well as against terrorists, cybercriminals and child pornographers, one of the country’s top spies said on Tuesday.
Sir Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ, said the covert unit had “countered state threats, made key contributions to military operations and disrupted terrorist cells and serious criminals” since it was created. setting three years ago.
The unusual information on the operation of the NCF was presented in a 28-page document. document outline the principles on which it operates. GCHQ also named the head of the unit for the first time: James Babbage, an intelligence officer who has worked for 30 years at GCHQ with spells at the Ministry of Defense and as a liaison officer in the US.
The disclosure comes as the US Cyber Command, a Pentagon unit founded in 2010 on which the NCF is based, began revealing more about its covert operations as Russia continues to mount an unprecedented volume of cybersecurity. attacks against Ukraine.
Fleming said he hoped the document, released Tuesday and titled “The National Cyber Force: Responsible Cyber Power in Practice,” would provide “a foundation for like-minded governments.” . . establish a vision and shared values for the responsible use of cyber operations”.
As a member of the Five Eyes intelligence group, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US, the UK has some of the most advanced cyber warfare capabilities in the world. The NFC is a collaboration between GCHQ, the Ministry of Defence, the UK’s foreign security service MI6 and the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory.
The unit will grow from a few hundred staff to 3,000 staff over the next few years and will eventually move to permanent headquarters in Samlesbury in Lancashire.
Central to their cyber approach is the “cognitive effect doctrine,” which the NCF says involves techniques that aim to sow mistrust, lower morale, and weaken adversaries’ ability to plan and carry out their activities.
Its capabilities range from jamming an enemy’s air defenses to protect British forces during a mission, to monitoring or shutting down the communication networks of a terrorist group, such as Isis, which GCHQ publicly acknowledged in 2018.
The NCF did not give details of any specific operations, but said they were carried out legally and ethically. He added: “As a general rule, we cannot and do not support cyber operations, as doing so undermines the benefits of ambiguity and risks allowing adversaries to develop better defenses.”
GCHQ said Babbage graduated in history and completed a master’s degree in computing and started working at GCHQ in the early 1990s.
The partial lifting of the cover on the NCF’s work follows recent moves by UK spy agencies to come out of the shadows as public concern grew over state surveillance and their need to expand recruitment.
It comes against a backdrop of US and EU authorities clamping down on the activities of commercial providers of technology used by Western intelligence agencies out of fear that the unregulated market has allowed hostile states to and criminals to benefit from some of the cyber weapons that have been developed.
US President Joe Biden signed an executive order last week aiming to target contractors supplying sophisticated cyber tools to those considered friendly to the West and selling to regimes more likely to use the weapons to police or suppress their own citizens. Bad actors would be locked out of the US market.
The EU is expected to follow similar rules soon, clamping down on a simmering spyware crisis in Spain and Greece, where companies have sold sophisticated military-grade technologies that have been used against opposition lawmakers and journalists.