Senior official says UK exploring national internet filter

Senior official says UK exploring national internet filter

GCHQ director general for cyber security, Ciaran Martin, has said that current measures to protect the United Kingdom from cybercrime are "not yet good enough".

The phrase "Great British Firewall" was coined by British news organisations following Martin's speech, which was his first public appearance since he was appointed head of GCHQ's new National Cyber Security Centre.

The program, which is now being trialed on public sector IT networks, is aimed primarily at protecting government sites and the infrastructure of industries important to national security, such as power and transport. "Well, we in the United Kingdom are", Martin said. "They're damaging our major institutions", he explained.

Martin noted that many attacks are "not terribly sophisticated" and can be stopped easily with the right systems in place. "And our local media in the United Kingdom is full of painful stories of small businesses, lovingly built up, struggling to survive and maintain the confidence of their customers after a ransomware attack".

Martin told the BBC that about 200 "national-security-level" attacks are spotted each month, but they're not always particularly sophisticated - the TalkTalk attack, for example, used well-known techniques.

If such attacks are not countered, the cost to United Kingdom businesses could be great. GCHQ, the UK's communications surveillance agency, certainly seems to think so.

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However, with the threat of cybercrime increasing, many companies and customers may be tempted by the trade-off of strengthened security against hackers. 'The government does not own or operate the internet. Consumers must have a choice. "So addressing privacy concerns and citizen choice is hard wired into our program".

The Internet Service Providers' Association-a lobby group that represents the likes of Sky, BT, Virgin Media, and many smaller ISPs-declined to comment on GCHQ's filtering plans.

The government spy agency GCHQ has started an ambitious plan to create a national firewall to block malicious websites.

"We're exploring a flagship project on scaling up DNS [domain name system] filtering", he continued.

Another pilot effort involves large-scale DNS filtering that would keep users from coming into contact with "known malware and bad addresses", although users would need to opt into such a programme.

"Even if we trust ISPs and governments not to abuse their extending powers of censorship, we ought to be anxious that GCHQ is proposing at least one security measure which undermines worldwide efforts to improve the integrity of the internet and thereby its security", he wrote.

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