News Article

GCHQ Director addresses NATO on shared security threats

Last Updated: 19 Jun 2018
Topics: Cyber security
During his visit to NATO in Brussels, Jeremy Fleming today talked about countering global threats, the importance of European partnerships and the benefits of collective security.

News article - 19 June 2018

After meeting with the NATO Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General and Ambassadors, Director Jeremy Fleming released the following statement: 

I'm in Brussels today speaking to EU and NATO colleagues about the range of challenges we face and how we work together to tackle them together. 

I've seen Sir Julian King and had very productive discussions here in the NATO headquarters with the Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General and the 29 NATO Ambassadors. Of course, this visit comes at a pivotal time of course as the UK leaves the EU and as we agree a treaty on security to ensure that the UK and EU Member States continue to work together to keep us all secure in the future.

During my meetings today I've spoken about the changing threat that we all face, the role that GCHQ plays in countering that threat, and how important our partnerships are both in Europe and across NATO.

Protecting our nations and our people, in the physical world and online, is becoming even more complex. The range and diversity of threats we face is growing.

As you've seen, Daesh are using slick online platforms to inspire and recruit a new breed of terrorists. They're motivated by the power of the media to promote, recruit and inspire; and are more aware of the capabilities which organisations like mine can deploy to disrupt them.

Criminal gangs have developed sophisticated online schemes to defraud people and businesses on a huge scale, and ransomware puts the data at risk that underpins the running of all our businesses.

Conflict zones have become more unpredictable, with adversaries that are flouting the usual rules of engagement.

Together we're also facing an increased threat from aggressive foreign powers they're combining military provocation, cyber intrusion and disinformation to impose their agendas. The Russian Government has shown its blatant disregard for the consequences of its actions. The response to the attack in Salisbury shows this is a concern that we all share with our allies here.

These threats are more complex and more global and none of us can defend against them alone. They require a pooling of resource, expertise and critically data so that we can investigate and disrupt our adversaries.

David Davis made this exact point a few weeks ago, when he said that we needed to further collaborate to deal with evolving threats. 

I'm hugely proud of the role that GCHQ plays in global security.

We counter hostile states - increasingly important given the behaviour we've seen online and in the physical world. I've taken the chance today to express my thanks today to the large number of allies who stood with the UK as we called out Russia for their attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal - the first time a nerve agent was deployed in Europe since the Second World War.

We also help counter terrorism, including through a major offensive cyber campaign against Daesh. I believe this had significant success in suppressing Daesh propaganda, hindered their ability to coordinate attacks, and protected coalition forces on the battlefield. It meant that in 2017 there were times when Daesh found it almost impossible to spread their hate online, to use their normal channels to spread their rhetoric, or trust their own publications.

We also support law enforcement as they fight against serious and organised crime. We've been proud to play its part, for example, in the arrest and conviction of Matthew Falder, a prolific paedophile whose terrible impact was felt across the world. And our efforts in 2017 helped with the seizure of over 19 tonnes of cocaine destined for Europe with a street value of over £1 billion.

GCHQ is also a global leader on cyber security. This work is led by the National Cyber Security Centre,  as part of GCHQ, which has the mission of making the UK the safest place in the world to live and work online. We've worked with our European colleagues to share understanding of how to protect our democratic elections. And we've unmasked aggressive behaviour in cyberspace to better help businesses and protect our citizens. For example, by joining with others to attribute Notpetya to Russia.

Over the last twelve months we've shared classified cyber threat intelligence with the majority of NATO member states and of course here in NATO headquarters too.

Almost everything that we achieve in GCHQ is dependent on our partners. In the UK that means our colleagues in MI5 and SIS, law enforcement agencies, and our military partnerships. Overseas it includes the longstanding and deep partnership with the US and the other Five Eyes. And of course it includes the increasingly strong partnerships we have with all of our European allies. 

We're leaving the EU but not Europe. And after Brexit the UK will continue to work with the EU and the EU Member States. We have excellent relationships with intelligence and security agencies right across the continent. For example, in the last year we've played a critical role in the disruption of terrorist operations in at least four European countries. Those relationships, and our ability to work together, save lives. That will continue after Brexit, for the benefit of the UK and for Europe.

GCHQ's intelligence supports our ability to mount global operations and investigations, including into areas of the world where it is difficult to operate. Our close support to NATO operations, intelligence insight and championing of NATO cyber transformation speaks to how we've partnered, and will continue to partner, with our allies.

But a defensive capability is only one side of the coin. A comprehensive approach requires offensive capabilities too. The UK Government has made it clear that we're ready to bring our offensive cyber capabilities to bear - such as those we've used so effectively against Daesh - for the benefit of our allies. I'm pleased that GCHQ is helping to shape the conversation about offensive cyber here at NATO. 

It's also important, post Brexit, that we have mechanisms that allow us to share insight and expertise - we mustn't let the sharing of intelligence information lag behind the pace of the threat. 

The legislation that underpins our work, the Investigatory Powers Act, is world-leading in its transparency, and features rigorous oversight mechanisms such as the new 'double lock' that will see all warrants we seek be approved by both a Secretary of State and a senior judge.

The nature of our role brings with it responsibilities to show how carefully we treat the data and, in doing so, the privacy of those to whom it relates. We take that responsibility extremely seriously. 

We've all benefited so much in Europe from our work together on our collective security. I'm confident that that will continue after Brexit, and I look forward to working with our European and NATO partners on how we can best ensure that it does.


Huge building with all 28 NATO member's flags on a circle of flagpoles
NATO Headquarters in Brussels. ©NATO