The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has celebrated its two-decade anniversary of the inaugural response by GCHQ to a state-driven cyber assault against the UK.
“In June 2003, GCHQ experts were involved in responding to a cyber attack against the UK Government for the first time,” states the press release.
The problem arose when suspicious activity was flagged on a government workstation, traced back to a potential phishing email. When specialists from the Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG), the information assurance division of GCHQ, examined the issue, they discovered malware specifically programmed to bypass anti-virus protections and pilfer sensitive information.
This investigation marked a pivotal change in cyber attack assessments. For the inaugural time, GCHQ integrated its signals intelligence abilities with its cybersecurity department to identify the responsible entity.
CESG’s meticulous analysis, reinforced with global collaborations, led to the conclusion that a foreign government was executing cyber espionage. This revelation initiated a trajectory that has become a cornerstone of NCSC operations, focusing on decoding and counteracting digital threats to the UK.
Paul Chichester, Director of Operations at NCSC, remarked, “Twenty years ago, we were just crossing the threshold of the cyber attack arena, and this incident marked the first time that GCHQ was involved in a response to an incident affecting the UK Government. It was also the first time that the UK and Europe started to understand the potential online risks we faced and our response transformed how we investigate and defend against such attacks.”