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Oscar Williams

News editor

GCHQ has launched a “major cyber campaign” against Isis

The UK has launched a “major offensive cyber campaign” against Isis, the recently-installed director of GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, revealed yesterday.

Speaking at the Cyber UK conference in Manchester, Fleming said that the attack marked the first time the UK had systematically and persistently degraded an adversary’s online efforts as part of a military campaign.

“Did it work? I think it did,” he said. “In 2017, there were times when Daesh found it almost impossible to spread their hate online, to use their normal challenges, to spread their rhetoric, to trust their publications.”

Fleming, a former MI5 agent, claimed the operations have made a “significant contribution” to the military efforts to suppress Isis propaganda and hinder their ability to coordinate attacks.

The intelligence chief also singled out Russia for its “unacceptable cyber-behaviour”, referencing the NotPetya attack that crippled critical infrastructure across Europe last summer.

“[Russia’s] not playing to the same rules,” Fleming said. “They’re blurring the boundaries between criminal and state activity.”

In February, the government pinned the blame for the NotPetya attack on Russia and vowed to make it pay. The defence secretary Gavin Williamson accused the Russian government of “ripping up the rulebook” by “undermining democracy” and “wrecking livelihoods” by targeting critical service providers.

Lord Tariq Ahmad, the Foreign Office minister for cyber security, added: “The United Kingdom is identifying, pursuing and responding to malicious cyber activity regardless of where it originates, imposing costs on those who would seek to do us harm.”