Intelligence agency GCHQ is to begin regular bulk-sharing of classified intelligence information with the UK’s biggest companies. The scheme will be announced at a private conference today, called IA14, by GCHQ director Sir Iain Lobban.
The aim is to combat the increasing threat of online industrial espionage, which the National Security Council has categorised on a par with terrorism as a major risk to the country.
It also coincides with a drive by government to push British businesses into ensure that their computer security can withstand sustained cyber attack by determined individuals, groups and foreign powers.
The intention is that the extra intelligence information that GCHQ may be able to provide will help organisations to target their defences.
GCHQ’s plan to share classified intelligence with the private sector “at scale and pace” will begin with companies who have already been vetted as suppliers to government networks, according to the Financial Times.
“We want to use our global intelligence capability [to] illuminate threats and allow effective actions to be taken to combat them,” a senior official at GCHQ told the FT. “When I started we would talk about what adversaries could do. Now we are talking about what they are doing,” he added.
And Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude will underline the threat of cyber espionage when the plan is unveiled by reveal that a “state-sponsored hostile group” successfully penetrated the government’s own intranet, gaining administrator rights, enabling them to access highly classified information.
GCHQ claims that the attack was discovered at an early stage and the damage therefore limited.