Ex-GCHQ expert warns UK has lost edge on hackers

The five-year advantage that Britain once enjoyed over organised criminals and hostile state hackers has been wiped out by the disclosure of a powerful armoury of hacking tools developed by America’s spies, a former GCHQ officer has told Johnston Press Investigations.

The so-called “Vault 7” theft saw at least 16 different types of software stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA) – the body in charge of Washington’s covert eavesdropping operations.

The theft has already caused havoc after the authors of the “WannaCry” ransomware attack in May used the stolen code to vastly increase the potency of their weapon, disrupting 45 NHS trusts in Great Britain.

Andrew Beckett, a former cyber defence expert at GCHQ, the UK’s electronic spying and surveillance body, told JP Investigations that the Vault 7 leak, carried out by a hacking group calling itself Shadow Brokers, had removed much of the advantage enjoyed by Britain and its allies in fighting cyber crime.

He said: “Shadow Brokers with their Vault 7 release of state-level cyber attacks has changed the playing field. Now instead of being the domain of the CIA, NSA or GCHQ those state-developed attacks are now in the hands of any organised crime unit, terrorism unit or indeed hacktivist group who wants to pay a subscription and get the details.”

He added: “That’s what keeps me awake at night,” warning that such attacks “will only increase” as the software is resold around the illict dark web.


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