Cyber threat 'as serious as fight against terror', says GCHQ director

Fighting off cyberattacks is now as important as GCHQ's spying efforts and defending against terrorism, according to the spy agency's head Jeremy Fleming.

In a column written for the Daily Telegraph, he said that United Kingdom adversaries are "quick to spot new ways of doing us harm".

Ex-deputy director of MI5 and GCHQ director, Jeremy Fleming, further said that increased funding for GCHQ was now being used on making it a "cyber-organisation" as it works with fellow intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6, the police and armed forces.

His comments come after the WannaCry ransomware attack brought the NHS to its knees - and a hack on parliament put the nation's democratic institutions at risk.

'We all derive great benefit from the ease and speed of connecting across the planet: access to knowledge, reduced costs of communication and commerce, and from the additional security provided by default encryption.

"Hostile states, terrorists and criminals use those same features.to undermine our national security, attack our interests and, increasingly, commit crime", he said.

It comes after security chiefs revealed the United Kingdom has been hit by more than 500 "significant" cyber attacks in the past year.

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It was not until the NCSC was set up past year, GCHQ's work on cyber-security "too often felt like the poor relation", he added.

Fleming said there had been nearly 600 "significant" cyber-attacks in the a year ago, all of which needed a national response. The NCSC now has a "world-leading programme to reduce the incidence and impact of cyber-attacks without users even noticing".

He added that despite GCHQ's need for secrecy, the centre was working closely with schools, universities and private firms, as well as the media, as part of its vital role.

And in June, up to 90 email accounts were compromised during the cyber-attack on Parliament.

Of those, 590 were classed as significant and more than 30 were assessed as serious enough to require a cross-government response.

Last week, NCSC head Ciaran Martin said 1,131 cyber-attacks were reported in the centre's first year. "It remains the case that much of what we do must remain secret".

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