Ransomware attacks in the UK have doubled in a year, British spy chief warns


ansomware attacks in the UK have doubled in just a year as criminal gangs “make very good money” from them, a British spy chief warned on Monday.

Sir Jeremy Fleming, director of the GCHQ spy listening centre, sounded the alarm over the growing threat from criminal gangs, some linked to hostile states, paralysing computer networks and demanding a ransom to unlock them.

Secret operations are being launched by Britain’s National Cyber Force  to “go after” ransomwarers beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies.

Sir Jeremy did not go into details of these counter-strikes but stressed intelligence agencies and law enforcement bodies needed to do more so ransomware “pays less”.

Links between “criminal actors and state actors” are also been pursued so “costs” can be imposed to deter such actions.

“We’ve seen twice as many attacks this year as last year in the UK,” Sir Jeremy told the Cipher Brief: Threat Conference, stressing the need for businesses and other organisations to boost their cyber defences.

“We have up until quite recently left a lot of this playing space to those criminal actors in effect to proliferate and to make a lot of money,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview, the spy chief also highlighted the threat posed by the rise of China and how the West had to stay ahead in the technological race to ensure Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and other landmark changes are based on western, liberal values.

There were “swing states” currently undecided as to whether to adopt the West’s vision of technological progress and the future, or another such as China’s.

Ransomware gangs usually tell their victims to contact them via an anonymous email address or follow instructions on an anonymous web page, to make payment, normally in a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.


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