Britain launched first-ever military-style cyber campaign against ISIS, says spy chief

Jeremy FlemingFor the first time in its history, the United Kingdom has launched its first-ever military-style cyber campaign against an adversary, according to the director of the country’s primary cyber security agency. The target of the campaign was the Islamic State, the militant Sunni Muslim group that is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The existence of the all-out cyber war was announced last week by Jeremy Fleming, the newly appointed director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s signals intelligence organization. Fleming, a former Security Service (MI5) officer, was speaking at the CYBERUK2018 conference, held in the northern English city of Manchester. It was his first public speech as director of GCHQ.

Fleming told his Manchester audience that the cyber operation that targeted ISIS was a “major offensive campaign” that seriously hampered the group’s ability to launch and coordinate both physical and online attacks against its enemies. The campaign also prevented ISIS from using its “normal channels” online to spread its message, effectively suppressing the group’s propaganda efforts, said Fleming. The new GCHQ director noted that large parts of the cyber operation against ISIS were “too sensitive to talk about”. But he added that the methods used to combat the Sunni Muslim group’s online operations were so aggressive that they “even destroyed equipment and networks” used by ISIS members. He did not specify what he meant by “destroyed equipment”, but his comment brought to mind the so-called Stuxnet virus, which was discovered by researchers in 2010. The virus appeared to have been designed by what experts described as “a well-resourced nation-state”, with the aim of sabotage sensitive hardware components found in centrifuges used by the Iranian government in its nuclear program.

During his Manchester speech, Fleming claimed that the British cyber war against ISIS was conducted in compliance with existing international legal frameworks. He added, however, that the “international doctrine governing the use [of cyber weapons] is still evolving”. The GCHQ director admitted that Britain’s cyber capabilities “are very powerful”, but argued that “we only use them in line with domestic and international law, when our tests of necessity and proportionality have been satisfied, and with all the usual oversight in place”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 April 2018 | Permalink | Research credit: K.B.

Advertisements

3 Responses to Britain launched first-ever military-style cyber campaign against ISIS, says spy chief

  1. Komet says:

    Aggressive destructive that’s great to hear – there’s only one question remaining and that it : Why did it take them so much time to react ???

  2. Good news. It is interesting that Fleming said “we only use them in line with domestic and international law, when our tests of necessity and proportionality have been satisfied, and with all the usual oversight in place”. The increasing use of the term “proportionality” to help legally justify action in nebulous conflicts is notable.

  3. Pete says:

    @Komet

    Re: “Why did it [Britain, GCHQ] take them so much time to react ???”

    Reading an earlier Intelnews article, https://intelnews.org/2018/01/25/01-2258/ of January 25, 2018, it appears the British Cabinet approved new cyber strategies against “state actors and others”. “others” could well include non-state actors like ISIS.

    GCHQ presumably has been given a much larger budget to counter ISIS including:
    – ISIS “fake news”/disinformation announced (January 25) and
    – cyber attacks againt ISIS announced above (April 20)

We welcome informed comments and corrections. Send us yours using the form below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s