Protecting 'digital homeland' as critical as counterterrorism: UK intel head

Protecting 'digital homeland' as critical as counterterrorism: UK intel head
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The head of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), similar to the domestic National Security Agency, said that his agency now treats cybersecurity as a threat on par with terrorism. 

"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," wrote GCHQ Director Jeremy Flemming in Sunday's Daily Telegraph

The GCHQ has been tasked with increasing duties similar to the work done by the Department of Homeland Security. It houses the National Cyber Security Centre, opened in 2016, and both government and private entities in cybersecurity.

But protecting and responding to cyberattacks, in addition to its counterespionage and counterterror roles, has historically been a "poor relation," wrote Flemming, something it has had to work to overcome.

The National Cyber Security Centre coordinated the response to 600 threats last year, including to "WannaCry," malware that forced a number of U.K. hospitals to turn away patients. 

"The Government’s investment in a bigger GCHQ gives us a chance to recruit the brightest and best from across our society — as the threat becomes more diverse, so must the workforce that tackles it," said Flemming.

"We’re using much of that funding to make GCHQ a cyber organisation as well as an intelligence and counter-terrorism one."