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GCHQ warns of thousands of cyberattacks on UK

Red alert

By Barry Collins

Posted on 13 Oct 2010 at 07:38

The UK is coming under serious and repeated cyberattacks on its core infrastructure, the head of GCHQ has warned.

Government computer systems have suffered "significant disruption" from internet worms, according to GCHQ director Iain Lobban, with around 1,000 targeted email attacks per month.

The threat posed by terrorists to facilities such as power stations and emergency services is "real and credible", Lobban added.

Cyberspace is contested every day, every hour, every minute, every second

"Cyberspace lowers the bar for entry to the espionage game, both for states and for criminal actors," Lobban told the International Institute for Strategic Studies, according to a report by the BBC.

"Cyberspace is contested every day, every hour, every minute, every second. I can vouch for that from the displays in our own operations centre of minute-by-minute cyber attempts to penetrate systems around the world."

The GCHQ boss claims that there is more than the safe operation of critical Government systems at stake. Lobban said that intellectual property theft was taking place on a "massive scale", potentially threatening both national security and businesses.

"Fundamentally, getting cyber right enables the UK's continuing economic prosperity," he said.

"There's a clear defensive angle. In order to flourish, a knowledge economy needs to protect from exploitation the intellectual property at the heart of the creative and high-tech industry sectors. It needs to maintain the integrity of its financial and commercial services."

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User comments

"internet worms"?

They're Windows worms, of course.

Yet another article that seems to scared and/or ignorant to mention that very pertinent fact. But what else would you expect from the BBC, which is fast becoming a rest home for retired Microsoft executives?

By BrownieBoy6 on 13 Oct 2010

Scare mongering

The threat posed by terrorists to facilities such as power stations and emergency services is "real and credible".

The correct passage should read "the threat from freedom fighters and anti-interventionist hacktavists in the Islamic world is small, but could potentially embarrass the government in the future".

The UK government has kicked a hundred ants nests in the Middle East and so on, and now some of those ants are threatening to bite back using non violent means.

The solution to this problem is for the UK government to stop antagonizing Arabs. This so called threat is marginal and only exists because UK troops joined America's rampage through Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bomb's don't work against governments, so people are now hitting back using computers.

By Perfectblue97 on 13 Oct 2010

Did someone get worried after watching Die Hard 4.0 recently??

By EddyOS_2K9 on 13 Oct 2010


First the RAF saying that they couldn't defend us against a 9/11 attack, and now GCHQ wringing their hands. I wonder perchance if this might just possibly be related to the spending review. Nah, couldn't be. They wouldn't be so sneaky as to indulge in cheap PR tactics.

By Grace_Quirrel on 13 Oct 2010

Not all critical systems use computers

I work on a verification and validation of a safety control system and the customer stipulated that no software was to be used within the systems, so FPGAs are used to provide all the "computing" functions. There is no way any malware could get into such a system

By BornOnTheCusp on 13 Oct 2010

Everyone's forgetting that our infrastructure is so clapped out worms would spread so slowly that it's almost not worth people bothering.

Flippant I know, but this is scare mongering. The UK is frequently attacked by "cyber threats" and no one really notices. This is because they're getting their funding cut.

By bubbles16 on 13 Oct 2010

And, frankly, let's be honest, we're more at risk from our own government's incompetence and lack of basic security internally than any external threat.

There's almost no need to put effort into protecting when civil servants refuse to follow basic security standards.

By bubbles16 on 13 Oct 2010

If the government switched to Linux, not only would they save much of the national budget in licence fees but the worms would be stopped in their tracks.

By Danielle on 14 Oct 2010

"Cyber Security" needs addressing at the software level - No More Buggy Software

"when civil servants refuse to follow basic security standards"

"If the government switched to Linux"

Some inspiring talks, should you have the time to watch:

David Rice, "upon the threshold of opportunity"
(@AppSec USA '10):

Haroon Meer, "Fig Leaf Security"

By jah420 on 14 Oct 2010


Switch to Linux. Hope not. "Sorry boss, I can't restart the national grid, I need to access root and reconfigure my package, and the driver for the nuclear reactor hasn't been finished by the open source team yet, so we're running the Windows software through "Whine."

No. Just no.

If anything they'd be better off using a private OS. Not something anyone can get hold of an start tinkering with.

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By linmaimai on 14 Oct 2010

Re: Scaremongering

At first sight, it is hard to believe that anyone could have penned that tired diatribe even in the UK. On second reading - not so much.

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By hvvhvbh on 16 Oct 2010


Do you think Ian Lobban is a fool. He has seen this site where cryptography of industrial strength is being sold cheaply by developers: making secret unbreakable communication impossible and therefore grounds to worry. Buy your cryptography software here and be assured your messages are never going to be accessed by Spooks.

By medallion on 30 Oct 2010

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