Number of cyber attacks on Gardai and Defense Forces foiled by top security agency

A number of cyber-attacks on the Gardai and Defence Force computer systems have been stopped by a top Government security agency.

The National Cyber Security Centre( NCSC), which is responsible for overseeing the cyber security of Government IT and Critical National Infrastructures, said there have been a number of threats on the two state bodies.

The highly trained unit, which was formed in 2011 and is an operational arm of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, lead in the management of major cyber security incidents and provide guidance to people and businesses.

Among the things it has developed since its establishment is the setting up of a threat-intelligence exchange group and developed a threat intelligence database that is being used to assist agencies and departments in protecting their networks.

At a press briefing at the NCSC Headquarters on Adelaide Road in Dublin’s City Centre, a spokesman said that there have been a number of attempted threats on the Defence Forces and Gardai which the unit has managed to stop when asked.

The spokesman said: “Yes, but very few we talk about in public.

“It’s a function of what we do to an extent because we are dealing with things that if you tell people what you have seen you are giving away the fact that you can see it.

“It’s a live environment. There are real live threats out there all the time from wide variety of threat actors.”

And he said that the level of software that ‘state actors’, who are the top of the threat pyramid, are using and then passing to the bottom of the ladder of bedroom cyber criminals, is increasingly fast and alarming.

What used to take months to travel from the top of the cybercrime pyramid, now takes just a week.

And the spokesman, who cannot be named for security reasons, said that the impact a cyber-attack could have on society if successful could be huge.

He said there are number of areas which could have a monumental effect on society.

He added: “First one is the large infiltration of data from a Government network. Similarly, if you are talking about infrastructure, we have seen incidents in Ukraine and elsewhere where electricity grids were taken down, completely turned off. Television lines have been taken off air in France, banks have been taken off line.

“The world has seen a fundamental shift in the way it has seen this in the last five years.

“NATO declared cyber as the fifth domain of warfare. It means that they would actually take it as an act of war.”

The spokesman said that cyber criminals are finding new ways to cause attacks all the time.

And he said that there are incidents internationally every day but less in Ireland.

He concluded: “We don’t have incidents of scale every day but perhaps once a week. This is a live environment and it’s not getting any quieter.

“A lot of the things that happen people never hear about.

“We still have a considerable journey to go but we have done a lot so far.

“You have to continually develop new systems.”

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We need a global cyberwar treaty, says the former head of GCHQ

WIRED / serazetdinov

There should be an international treaty on cyberwarfare that sets clear boundaries for nation states around hacking computer infrastructure, the former director of GCHQ has said.

In a wide-ranging interview, Robert Hannigan spelled-out the growing threats cyberwarfare, Russia, and artificial intelligence pose as well as calling for tighter regulation. “We should be looking at some kind of arms control for cyberspace,” says Hannigan, who left GCHQ last year. “We do need to come to some kind of international agreement about what’s acceptable and what isn’t”.

How this would work, though, is a difficult proposition. Put simply: no straightforward solution to cyberwarfare and offensive hacking campaigns by countries exists – and coming up with one is no easy task.

Publicly calling out a country for a cyberattack is still relatively rare as digital tracks are often covered, or non-existent, and naming and shaming also has political ramifications. Yet there’s a growing movement for a global agreement on what government-backed hackers can do.

Microsoft has previously called for a digital Geneva convention and the UN secretary general has also made similar suggestions. Nato’s cyber defence centre has also been clear to clarify pre-existing international laws around cyberwarfare. But any such international agreement would take years to create, Hannigan says.

“Now is a particularly difficult time to get any kind of international agreement through because there is so much tension between the major powers. The big danger is you end up with a treaty which one side implements and the other doesn’t. That would make things worse than ever.”

But such a major undertaking may start with “small gestures”, Hannigan says. “You could have discussions about what things are so important to us all that we need to protect.” These, he proposes, include the infrastructure of the internet and global financial institutions.

Hannigan’s intervention came just before the UK government publicly blamed Russia for launching the NotPetya malware in the summer of 2017. The attack was spread through thousands of computers using a compromised piece of accounting software. Hit hardest was Maresk. The international shipping firm reportedly replaced 45,000 computers, 4,000 servers and reinstalled 2,500 applications. Disruption at the courier firm TNT lasted for months.

NotPetya was one of the most destructive forms of malware that has been attributed to a nation-state. But how do we stop people subverting the supply chain in hardware and software. Hannigan claims an international agreement could focus on individual sectors – healthcare, for instance – and outline that these are areas that can’t be touched by nation states. But controlling Russia and North Korea would be a hard task.

Such an agreement would also be unprecedented. While chemical weapons are controlled by the PCW, Hannigan believes this method wouldn’t work for cyber. “Western governments could not trust the intelligence behind their assessments to an international body without compromising it,” he says. “At the moment it’s hard to see who would police this because you couldn’t really have an independent body.”

The cyberwars

The evidence of cyberattacks conducted by nation states is compelling. Russia’s attacks against Ukrainian power grids have left hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity; the WannaCry ransomware, which North Korea has been blamed for, took hundreds of NHS computer systems offline and put lives at risk.

What constitutes an act of cyberwarfare is still murky, though. Hannigan, who has been at the head of the UK’s offensive capabilities, is still unclear what the term fully defines. Since leaving the GCHQ for personal reasons in mid-2017, Hannigan has started working with cybersecurity firm Blue Voyant as well as consulting for McKinsey. He will also be speaking at the Great Innovation Festival in Hong Kong in late March. “It is quite hard to draw a distinction between intelligence gathering espionage and destructive,” he says.

The difficulty comes from working out who launched what. Disguises in code and masked data make pinning down a source incredibly hard. Even when a country is named, caution comes with it: last week, when the UK government called out Russia for creating the NotPetya ransomware, the strongest wording it used was “almost certainly”. But the attribution, which also came from the US, was significant. NotPetya was a piece of destructive malware that had real-world consequences. And it was launched by Russia.

According to Hannigan, there’s a “reassuring consistency” to the cyberwarfare tactics of Russia and North Korea: they keep to the country’s national interests. (Russia acted aggressively online and offline towards Ukraine; North Korea uses cyberattacks to show its strength internationally). “I think the worrying thing is that international relations at the moment mean that people don’t feel constrained,” he says. “They feel they can take risks that they wouldn’t have done five or ten years ago. [Russia] didn’t seem to mind it was being attributed to them,” he says of the country’s disturbance of the US election. He warns to expect more live testing from hostile states.

“If [Russia’s] intent changes and they become more reckless and destructive and aggressive then it really does get very worrying,” he says. “Particularly when you see what they did in Ukraine and other places before.”

In July 2017, leaked documents from GCHQ’s public facing arm revealed it believed hackers were “likely” to have compromised power systems in the UK. At the time, Motherboard reported the National Cyber Security Centre as saying industrial control system engineering had been successfully hit.

This sort of attack on critical national infrastructure is of particular concern. ITSec Team, a group of Iranian-linked hackers, were indicted in May 2016 on charges relating to cyberattacks on a small US dam. At present, Hannigan hasn’t seen any attacks on infrastructure physically harm or kill anyone. But it is only a matter of time. “It seems almost inevitable at some stage it will happen,” he says.

“If you start tampering with power supply or a traffic control you know you raise the risk of people being hurt. It seems unlikely to be going to be on a massive scale. It’s much more likely this would happen by accident”. Asked about likely scenarios when people would be injured or killed by cyberattacks, Hannigan says it will probably be from “collateral damage and unintended consequences”. Much of the former GCHQ director’s reasoning behind this lies in the fact that cyberattacks and security are largely unpredictable. Until a piece of code – whether it’s in genuine software or something malicious – is made live, it is impossible to know what its impact will be. “You can test them but until they go out into the wild you don’t really know what is going to happen.”

When it comes to causing physical harm to people, terrorist groups remain the most likely candidates. “There will, of course, be a small group of terrorists who actively want to try and kill people through cyber. But I think they’re a long way from having that capability,” Hannigan says. “They’ve got the intent but they’re miles away from having the capability. State-backed terrorism could do really destructive things in cyber.” However, terrorists launching cyberattacks have been predicted for some years and little real-world impact has been seen.

UK on the offensive

In November 2016, the then defence secretary Philip Hammond announced the UK was going on the offensive. It was the first time the government had admitted it was developing proactive powers to disrupt others in cyberspace. Hammond said the UK would look to cause “damage, disruption or destruction” to enemies as part of the National Offensive Cyber Programme, run between GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence.

But, the government has refused to reveal how many offensive cyberattacks it has launched since 2010 and hasn’t given any reasons for launching offensive operations. It has also refused Freedom of Information Act requests on national security grounds about which public bodies have been involved in launching cyberattacks. As a result, what the UK is doing remains opaque.

Hannigan describes the UK’s abilities to launch cyberattacks against enemies as being “pretty sophisticated” but not anywhere near the scale of the US. “It is a kind of an arms race and everyone is at this,” he adds.

There are a range of options available for the UK when it comes to offensive cyber offensives. These range from “high level” deterrence – he wouldn’t discuss specifically what these were – to campaigns to disrupt cybercrime. “If you’re in an armed conflict, and you are increasingly cyber dependent and so is the enemy, you’re going to want to interfere with other country’s weapons systems or whatever,” Hannigan says.

The only time that the UK government has admitted it has used cyberattacks in the wild is against the Islamic State. In October 2016, Hammond said that “offensive cyber” was being used for the first time in northern Iraq. Hannigan says the government, GCHQ and other intelligence agencies such as Mi5 aren’t likely to be forthcoming with details of cyber offensives soon.

“I suspect it will be provoked by other people rather than volunteered,” he says. “If other countries, or for that matter crime groups, do things that are destructive or reckless on a large scale there may come a point at which government has to put a red line down and say this is what we’re going to do in response.” Incidents such as NotPetya make this more likely.

Increasing regulation

Much has changed since Hannigan took post at GCHQ in 2014. Cyberwarfare wasn’t as common and his immediate responsibility was dealing with the fallout of Edward Snowden’s disclosures. The bulk data collection and mass surveillance programmes revealed by the former NSA contractor forced the UK spy agency to face more scrutiny than at any point in its 99-year history. This focus will only increase as data analysis and artificial intelligence become widespread.

Courts have ruled GCHQ unlawfully collected private data for around a decade and the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Act has further increased the parliamentary scrutiny of the work carried out by UK security services. The IP Act has been the biggest change to the UK’s surveillance laws in two decades. It not only sets out intrusive government hacking clearer than ever before, but also extends powers available. Under pressure, the government has made concessions since it was passed.

The IP Act is also likely to cause problems when it comes to the UK’s Brexit negotiations. “I think the Investigatory Powers Act is going to be a big issue in the negotiation of any data agreement with the EU,” Hannigan says. While national security information won’t be included in any Brexit data agreement, the agreement will govern how data can pass between the UK and EU. “It’s bound to focus on the use of bulk data. That’s the bit that is litigated and that’s the bit that most of those who are unhappy in the EU, there are various views across the EU, are unhappy about.” Hannigan says. “It’s going to be a very complex negotiation, but a critical one.”

Another area that’s likely to need intervention with the law, Hannigan says, is the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. “My concern these days – and especially now that I am out of government – is the ethics of it. In the future we may need regulation of AI and legislation around AI that builds in a privacy reinforcing approach to algorithms.” Such a framework would likely apply to GCHQ and other security agencies handling huge quantities of personal data with the help of AI.

For the spy agencies, the former spy agency boss says, there can be learnings from recent court action and the Anderson review into the UK’s surveillance laws. “We have to use data better because there’s no way that you can, or should, put thousands of people under surveillance,” he says. “How can you use data in a more intelligent way to triage the real priorities? AI is really good at that.”

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UK warned not to use security co-operation as a ‘bargaining chip’ in Brexit talks

Two former British spy chiefs have warned the UK government not to use security cooperation as a “bargaining chip” to secure a better deal in the Brexit negotiations.

Sir John Sawers, a former head of MI6, and Robert Hannigan, a former GCHQ chief, said Britain and the EU must agree a data-sharing deal to avoid security risks.

Sir John, who led the secret service between 2009 and 2014, said working closely with European partners in their national counter terror efforts would benefit the UK.

“Their security benefits our security,” Sir John told the BBC. “The more secure France is, the fewer dangerous people are likely to cross from Calais to Dover.”

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UK survivors of terrorism on a mission to tackle extremism

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Negotiating a deal in which both sides continued to have access to data is crucial, Sir John said, and Britain may have to continue following EU rules on data sharing in order for that to happen.

He added that the Brexit negotiation was not a “zero-sum game” and that a willingness on both sides to work together on security would help maintain a “climate of co-operation” during the talks.

Britain currently gives more intelligence to its European allies than it receives, in particular on terror networks and cyber warfare.

British Prime Minister Theresa May told the EU last year that if the bloc was unable to agree a post-Brexit trade deal, this would impact upon Britain’s resolve to cooperate with Europe on fighting crime and terror.

However, using the “security surplus”- as some UK ministers have termed it- as a point of leverage would not be ethical, Mr Hannigan said.

The ex-GCHQ head said it would be “absurd” to “think of withholding material that might stop a terrorist attack in exchange for fish quotas or something”.

“If either side try to use it as a bargaining chip or a point of leverage it’s likely to be negative on both sides,” Sir John added.

Mrs May has since said Britain has an “unwavering commitment” to the security of the EU.

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Only a matter of time before cyber attackers KILL a Briton warns ex-spy chief as he says it’s …

The former head of GCHQ has warned it’s only a matter of time before cyber attackers kill someone in the UK as he backed claims attacks from Russia could leave thousands of Brits dead.

Robert Hannigan, who served as the Director at Britain’s spy base until last year, said it was ‘perfectly respectable’ for Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to claim Putin could kill ‘thousands and thousands’ of Brits by attacking energy supplies.

Mr Hannigan said: ‘So far we have not seen anyone physically harmed or killed through cyber attack. But I do think it is just a matter of time.

Mr Hannigan said it was 'perfectly respectable' for Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to claim Putin could kill 'thousands and thousands' of Brits by attacking energy supplies

Mr Hannigan said it was 'perfectly respectable' for Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to claim Putin could kill 'thousands and thousands' of Brits by attacking energy supplies

Mr Hannigan said it was ‘perfectly respectable’ for Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to claim Putin could kill ‘thousands and thousands’ of Brits by attacking energy supplies

‘The danger of miscalculation in cyber is much greater than in other areas.

‘In cyperspace it is extremely hard to know what the collateral damage will be and what the unintended consequences will be. Some countries are behaving quite recklessly with those weapons.

‘If people do take reckless gambles inside power grids for example, it is almost inevitable that at some stage somebody will die as a result of cyber.’

At the same session Mr Hannigan defended Mr Williamson after the Defence Secretary was accused of leaking intelligence on Putin to distract attention from his private life.

Former head of MI6 Sir John Sawers also said that British jihadis returning from the conflict in Syria should not be subjected to ‘Wild West justice’.

He said that while former fighters should face justice, it was important that they were dealt with within the framework of the law.

Former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers says fighters returning from Syria should not face 'Wild West justice'

Former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers says fighters returning from Syria should not face 'Wild West justice'

Former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers says fighters returning from Syria should not face ‘Wild West justice’

Appearing before the joint parliamentary National Security Strategy Committee, Sir John expressed concern about ‘loose comments’ by politicians suggesting they should simply be killed.

He said it was essential that members of the intelligence agencies or the armed forces were not put in a position where they were expected to break the law.

Mr Williamson said last month that everything should be down to ‘destroy and eliminate’ the threat from returning fighters, claiming: ‘A dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.’

Sir John told the committee: ‘One or two loose things have been said about all those Brits who went out there should be killed.

‘I think it is very important that politicians don’t put members of the armed forces or the intelligence services in a position where they are expected to break the law.

Mr Hannigan said that as ISIS lost territory on the ground, it was increasingly focusing its activities online

Mr Hannigan said that as ISIS lost territory on the ground, it was increasingly focusing its activities online

Mr Hannigan said that as ISIS lost territory on the ground, it was increasingly focusing its activities online

‘There are very clear laws governing military action and so on. One of the essences of our system is that we operate within the framework of the law.

‘Yes, many of these people need to be brought to justice, but that doesn’t mean a Wild West justice.’

Mr Hannigan said that as ISIS lost territory on the ground, it was increasingly focusing its activities online.

‘As it is destroyed on the ground, the online caliphate becomes more and more important to it. We need to bear down on that.

‘The longer term worry is that we didn’t really see Daesh coming. If you see Daesh as simply the latest iteration of Sunni extremism, we have to assume there will be another one and it may not look exactly like Daesh.

‘We need to try predict correctly where it comes from and what it will look like. That ought to be a major concern for the next five years.’

Mr Hannigan also expressed concern about the use of cyber warfare tactics by countries like Russia and North Korea.

He said nation states were increasingly working with sophisticated criminal gangs, and warned that if they continued to take risks, there could be fatal consequences.

‘Against the backdrop of a sense of a disintegrating set of (international) rules, states have been prepared to take risks that are seriously dangerous,’ he said.

Former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers criticised Theresa May’s weak leadership and blamed her for allowing Britain to be eclipsed by French President Emmanuel Macron in world affairs.

The former head of MI6 told Parliament’s joint National Security Strategy Committee: ‘It’s having a quality of national leadership and the interest to devote to world affairs and we’re seeing a contrast here in contrast her for example to President Macron in France.

‘You cannot run an effective global foreign policy and have global reach unless you have a well-equipped and well-funded diplomatic service and that has certainly been driven too far down.’

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Ex-MI6 chief warns against ‘Wild West justice’ for former jihadis

British jihadis returning from the conflict in Syria should not be subjected to “Wild West justice”, a former MI6 chief has warned.

Sir John Sawers said that while former fighters should face justice, it was important that they were dealt with within the framework of the law.

Appearing before the joint parliamentary National Security Strategy Committee, Sir John expressed concern about “loose comments” by politicians suggesting they should simply be killed.

He said it was essential that members of the intelligence agencies or the armed forces were not put in a position where they were expected to break the law.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said last month that everything should be down to “destroy and eliminate” the threat from returning fighters, adding: “A dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.”

Sir John told the committee: “One or two loose things have been said about all those Brits who went out there should be killed. I think it is very important that politicians don’t put members of the armed forces or the intelligence services in a position where they are expected to break the law.

“There are very clear laws governing military action and so on. One of the essences of our system is that we operate within the framework of the law.

“Yes, many of these people need to be brought to justice, but that doesn’t mean a Wild West justice.”

Former GCHQ director Robert Hannigan said that as Islamic State (IS) – also referred to as Daesh – lost territory on the ground, it was increasingly focusing its activities online.

“As it is destroyed on the ground, the online caliphate becomes more and more important to it. We need to bear down on that,” he told the committee.

“The longer term worry is that we didn’t really see Daesh coming. If you see Daesh as simply the latest iteration of Sunni extremism, we have to assume there will be another one and it may not look exactly like Daesh.

“We need to try predict correctly where it comes from and what it will look like. That ought to be a major concern for the next five years.”

Mr Hannigan also expressed concern about the use of cyber warfare tactics by countries like Russia and North Korea.

He said nation states were increasingly working with sophisticated criminal gangs, and warned that if they continued to take risks, there could be fatal consequences.

“Against the backdrop of a sense of a disintegrating set of (international) rules, states have been prepared to take risks that are seriously dangerous,” he said.

“The danger of miscalculation in cyber is much greater than in other areas. In cyperspace it is extremely hard to know what the collateral damage will be and what the unintended consequences will be. Some countries are behaving quite recklessly with those weapons.

“So far we have not seen anyone physically harmed or killed through cyber attack. But I do think it is just a matter of time.

“If people do take reckless gambles inside power grids for example, it is almost inevitable that at some stage somebody will die as a result of cyber.”

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CIA says cyberattacks against Ukraine in 2017 committed by Russian military – Washington Post

CIA says cyberattacks against Ukraine in 2017 committed by Russian military - Washington Post

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believes that cyberattacks against Ukraine in 2017 were committed by Russian military hackers in order to disrupt the financial system of the Ukrainian state amid its ongoing war in Donbas with separatists loyal to the Kremlin, the Washington Post has said, citing a CIA report.

According to the statement, the CIA concluded with “high confidence” that a mock ransomware virus dubbed NotPetya, which attacked computers of Ukrainian banks, energy companies, airports and senior government officials in June 2017, was created by the military spy agency of the Russian Chief Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

At the same time, the Washington Post notes that the CIA declined to comment.

However, the newspaper recalls that the virus also affected computer systems in Denmark, India and the United States, but more than half of those victimized were in Ukraine.

“The attacks reflect Russia’s mounting aggression in cyberspace as part of a larger ‘hybrid warfare’ doctrine that marries traditional military means with cyber-tools to achieve its goal of regional dominance,” the newspaper quotes Robert Hannigan, former head of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency, as saying.

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Russia attacked energy, telecom and media in Britain, official says

The NCSC, a branch of the GCHQ, Britain’s main signal intelligence agency, has been in operation for a year and is charged with shoring up cyber security by working with a wide range of stakeholders.

Martin said in his prepared remarks: “I can confirm that Russian interference, seen by the National Cyber Security Centre over the past the year, has included attacks on the UK media, telecommunication and energy sectors.”

The agency was “actively engaging with international partners, industry and civil society” to tackle the threat from Russia, he said.

Martin echoed May’s comments that Russia was trying to “undermine the international system” with information warfare and cyber attacks.

Cyber security experts have long worried about attacks on electrical grids in particular, but Martin offered no evidence that the alleged Russian attacks succeeded in penetrating power systems or other critical infrastructure in the UK.

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​Cyber security as big a challenge as counter-terrorism, says spy chief

screen-shot-2017-03-27-at-11-02-45.jpg
GCHQ

Defending against cyber-attacks is as big a challenge for the UK as protecting against terrorism, according to the director of GCHQ.

“If GCHQ is to continue to help keep the country safe, then protecting the digital homeland – keeping our citizens safe and free online – must become and remain as much part of our mission as our global intelligence reach and our round-the-clock efforts against terrorism,” Jeremy Fleming, the director of GCHQ wrote in an article for The Telegraph.

While the UK government surveillance service is best known for gathering intelligence on criminals, terrorists and foreign states, it also has a cyber security arm – the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). Recently the NCSC said 1,131 cyber incidents had been reported to it in the past year.

Fleming said that the agency is investing in security “to make GCHQ a cyber organisation, as well as an intelligence and counter-terrorism one.” But he said balancing the security role with GCHQ’s more traditional spy role was difficult: “All of this can feel deeply challenging for a GCHQ that by necessity has worked in the shadows,” he admitted.

Cyber attacks on UK by other states and large scale cyber crime were identified as a ‘tier one’ threat in the 2010 National Security Strategy, alongside terrorism, war and natural disasters. “Attacks in cyberspace can have a potentially devastating real-world effect. Government, military, industrial and economic targets, including critical services, could feasibly be disrupted by a capable adversary,” the strategy said.

“We all derive great benefit from the ease and speed of connecting across the planet and from the additional security provided by default encryption. But hostile states, terrorists and criminals use those same features – instant connectivity and encrypted communications – to undermine our national security, attack our interests and, increasingly, commit crime,” said Fleming.

READ MORE ON CYBERWARFARE

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Kim Jong Un is after our money

North Korea are trying to loot Britain’s banks as the despotic state tries to fund its nuclear ambitions following losses inflicted by sanctions.

Robert Hannigan, former director of GCHQ, warned North Korea is trying to become a ‘Premier League’ player in cyber-warfare with an attack on Britain’s financial sector.

As North Korea tries to build up its nuclear capabilities, Mr Hannigan warned: ‘They’re after our money.’

Robert Hannigan, former director of GCHQ, warned North Korea is trying to become a ‘Premier League’ player in cyber-warfare with an attack on Britain’s financial sector

He said that while Kim Jong Un’s military weapons were not a direct threat to the UK, its cyber warfare was.

He cited examples of its WannaCry ransomware attack – which encrypts victims’ files then demands a fee to unlock them – which in May crippled the NHS’s computer systems and phone lines.

Speaking to the Sunday Times Mr Hannigan said: ‘Their missiles are not going to reach the UK but their cyber-attacks did reach the NHS and other parts of Europe.

‘As sanctions bite further and North Korea becomes more desperate for foreign currency, they will get more aggressive and continue to come after the finance sector. They’re after our money.’

The UN has brought in sanctions against North Korea in an attempt to force the secretive state to stop its weapons programme.

This has led to it stepping up its cyber warfare capabilities.

The reclusive regime is improving its hacking through collaboration with Iran and criminal networks operating in southeast Asia and China, the expert warned.

He told the newspaper: They are not in the Premier League yet – not in the top five nations – but they are getting there.’

The former head of GCHQ says Pyongyang is targeting the British financial sector to fund its nuclear ambitions

Mr Hannigan said that while Kim Jong Un’s military weapons were not a direct threat to the UK, its cyber warfare was

Mr Hannigan, who is currently Chairman of the European Advisory Board of BlueteamGlobal, also warned about Russia’s increasingly targeting political outcomes with ‘disinformation campaigns’.

An FBI inquiry is currently looking into alleged Russian meddling in the US election that saw former TV personality and billionaire Donald Trump elected as president.

Mr Hannigan stepped down from his role as director of the UK Government Communications Headquarters in January, citing ‘personal reasons’.

His tenure at the Cheltenham-based agency started in November 2014, following a period of intense scrutiny of its work sparked by revelations by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Earlier this year Mr Hannigan said it was the national duty of parents to ensure youngsters enjoyed more screen time as opposed to letting them ‘mooch around on the streets’.

The father-of-two said the UK risked falling behind, warning that Britain was already struggling to keep up with rivals due to a lack of engineers and computer scientists.

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Fears North Korea will cripple Britain with SECRET attack

Robert Hannigan, who ran Britain’s signals intelligence agency for three years, believes Kim Jong-un will unleash cyber hackers to bring down the UK.

He said Pyongyang is set to become a “premier league” player in cyber-warfare as it teams up with Iran and criminal networks in south-east Asia and China.

He told The Times: “Their missiles are not going to reach the UK but their cyber-attacks did reach the NHS and other parts of Europe.

“As sanctions bite further and North Korea becomes more desperate for foreign currency, they will get more aggressive and continue to come after the finance sector.

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