GCHQ 'Over-Achieved' its Development of Offensive Cyber Capabilities

By Tom Pritchard on at

A new report from the Intelligence and Security Committee claims that the GCHQ has substantially increased its hacking abilities over the past few years. So much so that the Committee claims the spy organisation has "over-achieved".

How much is over-achieved? Apparently the agency has doubled the number of offensive cyber-capabilities, including the ability to attack other countries' communications, weapon systems, and infrastructure. This all stems from a 'substantial' increase in effort to develop new hacks since 2014.

The specific details of the GCHQ's work is, naturally, classified in the public version of the report. However the new capabilities could help the UK retaliate against cyber attacks in other countries. Seeing as how those have been big news this year (especially with North Korea taking the blame for the WannaCry ransomware attacks), you can imagine that the politicians are very happy.

It's worth pointing out that the success hasn't been universal, and there have been a number of unsuccessful projects. One example is a project designed to handle the increased spread of encryption, known as Foxtrot. It's described as "equipment interference programme to increase GCHQ's ability to operate in an environment of ubiquitous encryption", and despite suffering delays is considered critical to the agency's work.

The GCHQ told the Intelligence and Security Committee that the project is its number one priority and number one worry, but admitted that as the job became more complex it became more apparent that the agency was suffering from a skills shortage. Probably a good thing, since weakening encryption is not a good idea - something we've mentioned many times here at Giz.

Another project mentioned here was 'Project Golf' which is designed to enhance supercomputing capacity. Despite not being ready yet, this one is still on track to become operational sometime next year. [ISC via BBC News]

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