Terrorists gaining cyberwar capabilities to paralyze major cities, says UK security chief

(Cyberwar.news) The director of Britain’s GCHQ, the equivalent of the National Security Agency in the United States, says that terrorists and rogue states are building a technical capability that will enable them to paralyze a major city like London or even New York City with the click of a computer keyboard.

Robert Hannigan, during a rare public speaking engagement at the the Cheltenham Science Festival in recent days, noted that the risk to cities like London will increase exponentiall as known as the “Internet of Things.”

The Telegraph reported that Hannigan, in his speech, warned that nation-states were busy working on developing the kind of cyber programs that could attack the United Kingdom and other Western nations, and that terrorist organizations were working to exploit the technology.

“At some stage they will get the capability,” he said. “There are certainly states and groups with the intent to do it, terrorist groups, for example, who have no threshold when it comes to the loss of life.

“We’re not quite there yet, but as the world becomes ever more connected that will become a greater risk,” he added.

For these and other reasons, Hannigan defended Internet surveillance powers given to his and other intelligence agencies by a controversial measure known as the Investigatory Powers Bill, which passed after its third reading in the House of Commons.

The GCHQ chief said that seven attacks against the UK has been foiled in the past 18 months because of the ability to gather and analyze bulk data.

In the U.S., efforts to ramp up bulk data collection and Internet surveillance conducted by the NSA and other U.S. spy agencies is heating up again. In May Mother Jones reported that the Senate held hearings on boosting Internet surveillance, despite opposition from electronic privacy groups.

In February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said expanded electronic surveillance powers in the Information Age were vital to protecting the country.

“In my 50-plus years in intelligence, I don’t know if we’ve been beset by a more diverse array of challenges and crises around the world,” said Clapper in an exclusive interview with WTOP conducted in December.

“Each day brings a range of threats and issues — cyber, counterintelligence, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, transnational organized crime, economics, natural resources and human security all demand Clapper’s attention as he prepares to brief the president,” WTOP reported.

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