Global upheaval shows cybersecurity not good enough, says GCHQ director

Cybersecurity is failing to keep pace with generational global upheaval and therefore needs significant investment and focus, GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming told an audience at Australia’s National Security College (NSC). at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

Amid the impact of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine and an increasingly confident and assertive China, Fleming said gaps in national cybersecurity strategies were painfully exposed as governments realize they have failed to understand the depth of the global crisis. interconnection and dependence.

“Before 2020, who here would have realized that the global supply chain for face masks would be such a critical dependency? Or that the grounding of a container ship in the Suez would cause such chaos? Or even that the availability of semiconductors would be so fragile that it would affect everything from the smartphone to the availability of the washing machine? ” he said.

“We had to realize what this means for our savings and our security. And we’ve seen how vital technology is to staying connected, to keeping our economies running, and to changing the way we work, even in the national security community.

“It also shows how vulnerable our nations are to cyber threats and how quickly our adversaries are adapting to take advantage of them,” Fleming said.

In a wide-ranging speech, Fleming dwelt at length on the cybersecurity implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, noting a meaningful comment expressing surprise that Moscow hasn’t deployed a major cyberattack in the past. of his depraved countryside.

“A lot of this misses the point; while some people seek cyber Pearl Harbors, we never understood that a catastrophic cyberattack was central to Russia’s use of cyber offensive or its military doctrine,” he said. “To think otherwise ignores the impact of cyber on military campaigns. That’s not to say we haven’t seen cyber in this conflict. We have them – and lots of them.

Fleming said the National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC), which ultimately falls under its jurisdiction as part of GCHQ, sees sustained Russian intent to disrupt Ukrainian systems, and some spill over into neighboring countries. There are also a growing number of indications suggesting that Russian cyber actors are trying to find targets in countries that explicitly oppose the invasion.

“Just as we pay tribute to the courageous actions of the Ukrainian military, we must also pay tribute to Ukrainian cybersecurity,” he said. “We and other allies will continue to support them in strengthening their defenses. And at home, we are doing all we can to ensure that businesses and government urgently follow through on plans to improve levels basics of cyber resilience I know your ACSC is doing the same thing here in Australia.

Fleming acknowledged that the cyber picture is complicated by various threat groups pledging allegiance to both sides and attacking them; by the impact of the remoteness of companies from the Russian economy; and by technology providers who step in to support Ukraine and counter Russian disinformation.

“All of this makes space very complicated and, in some ways, well beyond the control of governments,” he said. “It’s another reminder of the interconnectedness of today’s world. And since no single entity holds the complete solution, it underscores the need for global institutions to work effectively in coalition.

China’s growing assertiveness

Fleming also touched on China’s growing assertiveness on the world stage, saying Beijing is increasingly clear that it wants to set the “rules of the road” when it comes to technology and cyber; the UK and other countries have already seen this desire begin to manifest itself through the various controversies surrounding Huawei’s work.

“Historically, technology development was largely Western-led and owned,” he said. “The shared values ​​between the nations involved meant that industry standards for emerging technologies tended to be global. Investment in technology has brought status, wealth and security. Today, we are in another era. We can see significant technology leadership moving east. This causes a conflict of interest. Of values. Where prosperity and security are at stake.

“[China] also has a competing vision for the future of cyberspace and is increasingly influential in the debate over international rules and standards,” Fleming said. “China brings all the elements of state power to control, design influence and dominate technology, if you will, cyber and fiber.

“If we don’t act – with our allies, with our partners and with the private sector – we will see undemocratic values ​​as the default of vast swaths of future technology and the norms that govern it. There is no doubt that democratic nations face a moment of judgment.

Fleming called on democratic states to try to find new ways to collaborate and cooperate, building on existing alliances such as NATO, the English-speaking Five Eyes group and ASEAN. He also stressed the importance of making the democratic “counter-offer” to China more convincing and coherent.

“Whatever we do, we have to make sure we stay true to our values, the ones that have made our systems and our democracies successful and will do so in the future as well,” Fleming said.

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