April 14, 2018
The UK has carried out a “major aggressive cyber-campaign” versus the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence organization GCHQ has disclosed.
The operation thwarted the group’s capability to co-ordinate attacks and repress its publicity, ex MI5 agent Jeremy Fleming said.
It is the first time the United Kingdom has methodically damaged an enemy’s online efforts in an armed operation.
Mr. Fleming made the comments in his first open speech as GCHQ director.
“The results of these operations are extensive,” he informed the Cyber UK meeting in Manchester.
“In 2017 there were times when Daesh (a substitute name for Islamic State) found it virtually unmanageable to disperse their hate online, to use their usual networks to disperse their rhetoric or believe their periodicals.”
Mr. Fleming stated much of the cyber-operation was “too confidential to mention”, however, had unsettled the group’s online actions and even demolished equipment and systems.
“This fight shows how targeted and effective attacking cyber can be,” he added.
But Mr. Fleming stated the battle against IS was not finished since the group continued to “seek to inspire or carry out more attacks in the United Kingdom” and find new “ungoverned areas to base their jobs”.
Mr. Fleming also criticized Russia over what he termed “intolerable cyber-behavior” that was an “increasing danger” to the United Kingdom and its partners.
He reminded the NotPetya ransomware attack on Ukraine last year, which finally extended throughout the world.
“They are not playing to the same laws,” Mr. Fleming stated. “They are distorting the borders between illegal and state action.”
After the speech, the chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, told the BBC the Notpetya incident was also an instance of the Russian irresponsibility cited by Mr. Fleming.
Asked if the revelations about offensive cyber-actions were an indirect warning to Russia, Mr. Martin said sometimes the best form of defense is offense.