Sky News gains exclusive access to the UK’s cyber intelligence agency

Sky News gains exclusive access to the UK's cyber intelligence agency

The room is windowless, and surrounded by a financial institution of pc and tv screens. A file of maps and intelligence is on a desk within the center.

I am inspired to scribble notes on the desk as I am going alongside.

I am inside GCHQ, the UK’s cyber intelligence company – extra related than ever at the moment, with the advance of expertise and rising threats.

I am being put by means of a surveillance operation by a GCHQ analyst, Louise. This has by no means been proven in public earlier than.

The quantity of information is overwhelming – telephone logs, textual content messages, emails, web historical past.

Inside that, there may be extra – who known as whom, from the place, when, for a way lengthy?

:: Islamic State has ‘raised the bar’ in its menace to the UK – GCHQ

Alistair Bunkall was granted access to GCHQ's headquarters
We went by means of a simulation of an actual surveillance operation

The proof is in entrance of me, someplace, however the sheer quantity of data is dizzying. Many of the knowledge is irrelevant, not helpful and even useful.

The trick is to work out which bit is value pursuing and keep away from the pink herrings. Spot the patterns, or determine the bizarre or unexplained occasion.

“Often you’d attempt to determine particular person targets. You’d have one individual taking a look at some name knowledge, and another person taking a look at web visitors,” explains Louise.

Cellphone data would sometimes cowl a two week interval so intelligence officers aren’t being too intrusive and taking a look at extra knowledge than they should.

A warrant to take heed to calls or learn messages have to be signed by a Cupboard minister and a choose.

“Now we have to weigh up how a lot we count on to get that’s extra delicate in nature,” Louise says.

Sky News was granted unprecedented access to GCHQ's headquarters
Sky Information was granted unprecedented entry to GCHQ

“Additionally whether or not there may be any intelligence worth. As soon as we even have entry to that content material, if we discover we have accessed one thing we should not have performed then we’ve got to report that.”

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By listening to calls, studying emails and utilizing accomplice businesses like MI5 to comply with targets on foot, analysts can get to know each little element about targets’ lives.

I ask one other intelligence officer, Sunny, in the event that they ever get too shut.

“That may occur that may occur,” Sunny replies.

“It actually does rely upon the targets but in addition our degree of entry. What’s it that we truly following any individual for?

“What degree of element do we’d like? We cannot attempt to discover out the whole lot about everybody, each single side about one thing, if we have already received what we’d like.

Alistair Bunkall was granted access to GCHQ's headquarters
A GCHQ analyst says the company can get to know each element a couple of goal’s life

“However it will probably occur. You get to know your targets fairly properly.”

When an assault occurs, because it did 5 instances final 12 months, GCHQ works with MI5 and MI6 to search out out who was behind it.

“I believe there is a very well understood goal,” explains Sunny.

“Everyone is aware of what they’re within the workplace to do. Everybody shares the identical frequent purpose. I believe the most important feeling within the workplace is one in every of eager to go after the targets and discover out who’s concerned.

“Is there one other menace that we have to find out about? And are we pursuing any individual that we have to decide up or query? It is mainly one in every of goal actually.”

The menace going through the UK has modified – within the early 2000s it got here from al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen – lately it has been Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Within the early 2000s the menace got here from al Qaeda – lately it has been from IS

A 3rd officer I converse to, Ben, specialises within the Center East and North Africa. Terrorist assaults in opposition to the UK in recent times have had hyperlinks to that area.

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“When an assault does occur, that basically brings it dwelling that that is the significance of the job, and this is the reason we do it,” Ben says.

“The very first thing is knowing precisely what the scenario is – so what has occurred and what do we all know, so truly getting that floor reality.

“So truly fact-finding is the very first thing we’ll all the time do. From there it’s understanding precisely how that has occurred and the place have we probably missed one thing specifically, or have we missed one thing specifically?

“Had been we anticipated to know a specific case had occurred in a sure approach? From there it’s extremely a lot a case of piecing again that observe and attempting to place that breadcrumb path again collectively to work out precisely what occurred and who within the particular person nations in query have been concerned in that.

“Does that then give clues about others concerned who we might then decide as much as probably cease different issues occurring at different instances?”

“You’ll be able to eradicate one menace, there will probably be one other menace across the nook.”

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