The UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is shedding some of its secrecy in an effort to increase the effectiveness of fighting cybersecurity threats through its National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming recently wrote in the Telegraph.

The technological changes brought about by the internet have provided new opportunities for UK citizens, Fleming wrote, but they also have created new threats. GCHQ wants to help citizens take advantage of the benefits, while protecting them from those who may want to cause them harm as well, Fleming wrote.

Despite the usefulness of these benefits, he wrote “hostile states, terrorists and criminals use those same features – instant connectivity and encrypted communications – to undermine our national security, attack our interests and, increasingly, commit crime.”

SEE: IT leader’s guide to the threat of cyberwarfare (Tech Pro Research)

Much of the work of the GCHQ has done has been in the shadows, so to speak. However, as the NCSC has risen in prominence to deal with emerging cyberthreats, working with the private sector, universities, and more, that notion of working in the shadows is being challenged.

“It remains the case that much of what we do must remain secret,” Fleming wrote in the post. “But I welcome the shift.”

At the time of Fleming’s writing, the NCSC was roughly a year old. The government has increased its investment in the organization, which it will use to attract more diverse talent and build out its workforce, Fleming wrote. All of this is part of an effort “to make GCHQ a cyber organisation as well as an intelligence and counter-terrorism one,” Fleming wrote.

So far, Fleming’s post noted, the NCSC has responded to almost 600 “significant incidents” that each requires some sort of national, coordinated response. This included big attacks like WannaCry ransomware hitting the NHS, along with many smaller breaches.

To continue protecting the safety of the its home country, the GCHQ must also protect the “digital homeland” and keep users safe online, Fleming wrote. Additionally, this mission “must become and remain as much part of our mission as our global intelligence reach and our round-the-clock efforts against terrorism.”

SEE: The secret to being a great spy agency in the 21st century: Incubating startups (TechRepublic cover story)

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The GCHQ’s cybersecurity arm, the NCSC, has forced the organization to operate more in the public eye as it seeks to mitigate the potential effects of major cybersecurity threats.
  2. As the government invests more in the GCHQ and NCSC, the organization is looking to extend its ranks and hire more diverse talent.
  3. The GCHQ has responded to roughly 600 serious cyberattacks, and will continue to do so to protect the “digital homeland” of UK citizens online.