GCHQ has launched a cyber operation to disrupt disinformation around vaccines being spread by Russia and other hostile states, it has been reported.

False information about vaccines has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, with Russia identified as one of the main spreaders of such content.

According to Lucy Fisher in the Times, the UK spy agency is now using tools developed to stop material created by Islamic State from spreading against anti-vaccine propaganda.

“GCHQ has begun an offensive cyber-operation to disrupt anti-vaccine propaganda being spread by hostile states, The Times understands. The spy agency is using a toolkit developed to tackle disinformation and recruitment material peddled by Islamic State, according to sources.

It is the latest move by cyberagents to counter activity linked to Moscow whose aim is to exploit the pandemic in order to undermine the West and boost Russian interests. The government regards tackling false information about inoculation as a rising priority as the prospect of a reliable vaccine against the coronavirus draws closer.”

The report also cites a government source as saying:

“GCHQ has been told to take out antivaxers online and on social media. There are ways they have used to monitor and disrupt terrorist propaganda.”

Russia has been linked to a number of malicious activities online associated with coronavirus. Earlier in the year, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace committed to supporting NATO’s efforts to combat COVID-19 in a video conference with Allied defence ministers.

NATO defence ministers met over video conference where they discussed how the Alliance can continue to protect its almost one-billion citizens during the COVID-19 crisis. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace reaffirmed the UK’s support for NATO’s role in the international response to the crisis and committed to examining all requests for assistance from Allies.

“One current priority is combating the spread of harmful, false and misleading narratives through disinformation. To bolster this effort, the British Army will be deploying two experts in countering disinformation. They will advise and support NATO in ensuring its citizens have the right information to protect themselves and its democracies are protected from malicious disinformation operations used by adversaries. NATO can play a key role in the international fight against COVID-19, and Allied solidarity is more important than ever to ensure both the security and the health of our almost one-billion citizens.”

Earlier this month, the NCSC also revealed it had protected the UK from more than 700 cyber attacks over the last 12 months, more than a quarter of which were linked to coronavirus.

Avatar photo
George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub (@guest_527987)
3 years ago

A tricky line to walk. If people start dying from a rushed new vaccine, will news about it be suppressed as anti-vax?

TrevorH (@guest_527992)
3 years ago

But its not rushed.

ChariotRider (@guest_527998)
3 years ago
Reply to  TrevorH

No, but it looks rushed to the non-expert which if we’re being honest is most of us. The fact is the speed is a result of huge resources being pushed at this one problem, probably at the detriment of other important efforts. The thing is it is a lot to try and explain compared to a simple, “it was rushed”, message. So the advantage is with the anti-vax brigade… Anyway, there are still important questions to answer key being how long does any vaccine immunity last? What, if any, are the long term effects of the vaccine? These questions can… Read more »

TrevorH (@guest_528323)
3 years ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Apparently Pfitza did not take any govt money and just got on with developing it which saved time. Their money is their own and if they failed then its their loss.

Hopefully other options will appear as well.
I take the flu jab every year, so its not unusual to get booster jabs because viruses mutate.

No doubt we would be in trouble with Ebola, but with that it affects you then kills you even quicker… so the spread can be controlled. Thats why the Chinese were so clever to introduce this on an unsuspecting world…

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke (@guest_528018)
3 years ago
Reply to  TrevorH

Unmmm As a PhD scientist I would say it is rushed by normal standards. You don’t normally manufacture anything until everything is signed off. And there is a request for accelerated licensing as well. Those are just simple checkable facts. Do I think it is justified to rush things given the balance of harms: yes I do. Will I be rushing to get vaccinated? Probably not: I’m not high risk. Why am I not in a rush to get vaccinated? I’ve already had COVID and unpleasant as it was I’ve recovered. FYI my kids have had all the standard jabs… Read more »

ChariotRider (@guest_528002)
3 years ago

Trouble is we are playing catch up when it comes to countering the lies. There is also the problem that simple lies are easier to peddle than complex rebuttals. The internet was supposed to bring information and knowledge to the masses, instead it has increasingly brought lies, crooks and confussion, all helped along by a lazy press with too many ‘journalists’ with no experience or indepth knowledge of the subject matter they are spouting on about. Hence, silly stories in the press about fires on SSBN’s when they are being moved cold and have a diesel generator running (all be… Read more »

dan (@guest_528083)
3 years ago

What about all the disinformation being spewed out by creepy, old dementia Joe Biden?

Herodotus (@guest_528149)
3 years ago
Reply to  dan

What about the lies and buffoon comments put out by ‘Crusty the Clown’, the present imbecile-in-chief?