A joint operation involving intelligence agency GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence took direct action against computer networks used by cyber criminals, helping to protect people against cyberattacks and also making hundreds of thousands of stolen credit cards worthless to the crooks who stole them.
The action by the National Cyber Force – using the combined resources of the MoD and GCHQ – has been revealed by Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ.
“Through the National Cyber Force, we are actively undermining the cyber criminals’ assumption that they can act with impunity on the internet. We have disrupted criminals, making it clear that they are being observed, and going after their ability to profit from their illegal work,” he said, speaking at the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) Cyber UK event in Newport, Wales.
Fleming described how the NCF – which was first announced in 2020 and received an official home in 2021 – is working alongside international partners to actively mount operations to “undermine” the networks of cyber criminals, denying them access to malware and other offensive cyber tools and preventing malicious hackers from profiting from cybercrime – all to help protect citizens from falling victim to cyberattacks and fraud.
“In real life this means: tens of millions of pounds in potential fraud against the UK economy avoided. Hundreds of thousands of stolen credit cards made worthless to the criminals, and countless potential victims of crime around the world with their data and accounts safeguarded,” said Fleming. He did not detail how this was done.
“The NCF is already making a big impact. From countering disinformation, to supporting the activities of our military overseas, and to helping law enforcement to go after criminal gangs, it is improving the UK’s defences and it’s imposing a cost on our adversaries,” he added.
The active operations of the NCF forms just one part of a national cybersecurity strategy designed to help protect people, organisations and infrastructure from cyberattacks.
Another key aspect of that approach detailed by the intelligence agency chief is the importance of cybersecurity skills, along with finding and training people from a diverse range of backgrounds to draw on their own experiences to help keep the UK stay safe from cyber criminals – and other hostile cyber threats.
“The talent in the community today is huge. But if the UK wants to continue to be successful, we need to widen the appeal of careers in cyber,” said Fleming.
“Together, we must work to attract the next generation of talent from as diverse a pool as possible, from right across the country. The range of lived experiences this will bring into the workforce will make us collectively better,” he added.
Concluding his speech, Fleming emphasized the importance of cybersecurity and protecting against all manner of threats that the UK and much of the wider world looks set to face in the coming years.
“The global shifts we are seeing will take decades to resolve. And while I can’t predict how things will turn out, I can confidently say that cyber and cybersecurity will continue to be pivotal,” he said.