Law enforcement and government intelligence agencies are engaged in a “technological arms race” with cyber criminals and terrorists whose methods are “unconstrained by consideration of ethics and law”, the head of MI6 has warned.
Speaking at his first public appearance since taking over as the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Alex Younger (pictured) warned of the threats posed by cyber terrorism and explained what MI6 is doing to combat it.
“Using data appropriately and proportionately offers us a priceless opportunity to be even more deliberate and targeted in what we do, and so be better at protecting our agents and this country,” Younger told the Whitehall audience. He also described how “technical operations” are increasingly becoming a part of day-to-day espionage operations.
However, he also warned that while the authorities are able to benefit from the use of computers and technology, criminals and terrorists are also able to use the latest technological developments to their advantage and without any requirement to ensure their techniques fall on the right side of the law.
“The bad news is the same technology in opposition hands, an opposition often unconstrained by consideration of ethics and law, allows them to see what we are doing and to put our people and agents at risk,” said Younger. “So we find ourselves in a technology arms race.”
However, despite the rise of technology, Younger insisted that “contrary to myth, human intelligence operations are not an alternative to technical operations… the two are interdependent and set to become more so”.
Ever since US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the extent of government spy agencies’ online surveillance, including in the UK, authorities have been under increased scrutiny over the way that they collect and use personal data.
Nonetheless, Nigel Inkster of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former deputy chief at intelligence service MI6, recently argued that what the government is doing shouldn’t even be classed as surveillance. According to the pressure group Privacy International, though, court documents indicate that the intelligence services are out of control.