back to article Terrorists seek to commit deadly 'cyber attacks' in UK, says Chancellor Osborne

Following Prime Minister David Cameron's re-announcement of funding increases for UK security personnel, Chancellor George Osborne delivered a speech today to GCHQ workers explaining that the increase is necessary as ISIL is seeking to "develop the capability" to launch deadly cyber attacks against British infrastructure. How …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone read the excellent "Consider Phlebas" by Ian Banks ?

    The parallels between what's going on now and the Culture/Idiran war is uncanny.

    1. g e

      Will add it to the reading list

      But, in the meantime, who do I write to to utterly surrender my liberties like a good, right-thinking member of the electorate?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Will add it to the reading list

        Just send an email to your mother - GCHQ will pass it on to the relevant people.

    2. CatoTheCat

      My introduction to Banks. Still wonderful after all these years.

  2. Oldgroaner

    Joined-up thinking

    Massive cyber attacks anticipated -- but black hatters probably waiting until smart meters forced on UK homes. Is Osborne aware of the new opportunities this daft measure will create?

  3. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So when we (I mean naturally the NSA/CIA) hack power stations etc. it's in the interest of world peace but when it happens to us it's terrorism? In other news, Mr Cynic marries Miss Al.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      ""If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost.""

      Just don't connect the ATC, hospitals', power stations etc to anywhere online. Is it that hard? after all, these systems worked fine 'off-line' for decades before the internet even existed

      1. Adam Foxton

        There is another alternative

        The issue isn't so much the data streaming out of these facilities as the possibility of sending commands into them.

        So the 'internet' connection should just be one-way. Just take the data being fed out of the systems and feed it into a web server box via RS232/RS422/something similar. And then cut the Tx line(s) from the webserver to the computer it's monitoring.

        Et voila, instant perfect security; it physically cannot be hacked into.

      2. veti Silver badge

        Surely the correct answer is to ensure that vital national infrastructure has sufficiently hard defences, and sufficient redundancy, that it can't be successfully attacked online.

        If we don't have that redundancy and security - if hacking a substation somewhere really would endanger lives - then we've got bigger problems than cyber-security. 'Cuz substations fail all the time, for reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    "If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, were.....attacked online,

    Well, don't put them on the fucking internet then. Shheeezzz.

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: "If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, were.....attacked online,

      My thoughts exactly. All key infrastructure should be entirely isolated from the internet. Every time I hear about someone who's hacked NASA or the Pentagon my first thought is always "why do they still have this data connected to the internet?" It's just a disaster waiting for a game of tic-tac-toe...

    2. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: "If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, were.....attacked online,

      We're quite good at attacking our own air traffic control.

      1. GW7
        Holmes

        Re: "If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, were.....attacked online,

        We're already very close to our UK electricity supply being cut off this winter, having reduced the supply overcapacity to just 1%. It won't need terrorists to take out the grid, just a cold snap. Or a twatbook campaign among the tiny minority who wish to destabilise our civilisation to turn on their heaters, kettles dishwashers, washing machines and electric cookers at exactly the same time one chilly day. Unlikely there'll be many takers for that.

        Still, blaming ISIL cyber attacks for power cuts is the perfect excuse for the energy industry to cover up their own neglect.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, were.....attacked online,

          Still, blaming ISIL cyber attacks for power cuts is the perfect excuse for the energy industry to cover up their own neglect.

          How is it the responsibility of the energy industry? All aspects of system design and energy policy sit with government, and the reason that there's so little reserve margin is because they've buggered up the wholesale energy market with their vast renewables subsidies (including renewables obligations) plus their carbon taxes on thermal plant. If there's no money in keeping plant open, or building new plant, who will build any?

          If your lights go out, contact your MP, not your electricity supplier.

    3. Old Handle
      Devil

      Re: "If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, were.....attacked online,

      I can't help feeling like they kinda want this to happen. I mean, I'm sure they don't want people to die, but just think, a whole new kind of war! New laws to pass! A new defense industry! What a great time to be alive (and in power).

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Christoph Silver badge

    "They have not been able to use it to kill people yet by attacking our infrastructure through cyber attack.

    They do not yet have that capability. But we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it."

    Translation: "Hey, what a great change to push forward the draconian surveillance laws we've been trying to get for so long!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe, but it also works the other way. The government can hardly push for backdoors, make encryption illegal and restrict the uses of tunnelled comms when the terrorists can now use those channels to directly attack us.

      They can't undo that statement so any attempts to restrict encryption can now be met with an argument that without it it will make the terrorists aim of 'hacking' western targets easier.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        You credit the clueless fuckwits honourable members of parliament with too much technical thinking there.

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        "Maybe, but it also works the other way. The government can hardly push for backdoors, make encryption illegal and restrict the uses of tunnelled comms when the terrorists can now use those channels to directly attack us.

        They can't undo that statement so any attempts to restrict encryption can now be met with an argument that without it it will make the terrorists aim of 'hacking' western targets easier."

        You would be entirely correct if we were talking logical thinking. We are, however talking political thinking.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      FTFY

      ""Hey, what a great change to push forward the draconian surveillance laws that group of faceless senior civil servants have been trying to get for so long!"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    CPNI?

    Is Sky Sports part the Critical National Infrastructure? If not, it should be!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Die Hard 4.0

    Look Mr Osborne, Die Hard 4.0 was a movie - it wasn't real. There's no reason to panic.

    Now take this pill, have a lie down and the nice Nurse will be with you soon to give you an injection...

    1. Anonymous Blowhard
      Big Brother

      Re: Die Hard 4.0

      Trouble is, a lot of the anti-terror measures for airline security were based on the mythical "binary liquid explosive" from Die Hard 2, so basing cyber-security policy on Die Hard 4.0 will just be consistent thinking.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Die Hard 4.0

        The "no liquids" rule, as ridiculous as it is and unlikely to prevent much was enacted after a real plot in London, UK to smuggle liquid explosive in soda bottles.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_transatlantic_aircraft_plot

        1. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: Die Hard 4.0

          "The "no liquids" rule, as ridiculous as it is and unlikely to prevent much was enacted after a real plot in London, UK to smuggle liquid explosive in soda bottles"

          That is correct, however the security forces vastly overestimated the potential harm done. I can't remember where I saw it, but a real chemist did a detailed analysis of the 'binary liquid explosives' behind that plot and found that either combing the 2 liquids properly required a couple of hours to 'cook up' in lab conditions (not something you could get away with in an aircraft toilet) or else the liquids would need to be pre-combined in which case they would be so unstable that they would explode on the way to the airport.

          In other words the "They would then construct the devices mid-flight and detonate them" bit is a complete fantasy

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Die Hard 4.0

            An analysis by a chemist was performed, and then along came Lewis a couple of years later, armed with the extra evidence from the court case and clarified the matter (even if they were cleared of attempting to take down a plane).

          2. Tony Haines

            Re: Die Hard 4.0

            You're probably thinking of this article, which rubbished the in-flight production of TATP:

            http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/17/flying_toilet_terror_labs/

            However, that wasn't the plan, as described by Lewis Page:

            http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/10/liquid_bomb_verdicts/

            From what I gather the main explosive was hydrogen peroxide (possibly to be mixed with a powder like flour), being set off by a detonator (which was either TATP or HMTD).

            And as he observed, the 'no liquids' (or rather, 100ml bottles max) rule wouldn't prevent a determined attack.

            [...doh, ninja'd.]

            1. James Micallef Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Die Hard 4.0

              @jetsetjim, and @Tony Haines - thanks both for the clarifications - I had indeed seen the first article but not the second

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Die Hard 4.0

            "That is correct, however the security forces vastly overestimated the potential harm done...a real chemist did a detailed analysis of the 'binary liquid explosives' behind that plot"

            As others have stated it was nothing to do with Binary Liquids, I even put a link to details about it. Plenty of harm could have been done and the "100ml" rule does little to stop it.

      2. James Micallef Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Die Hard 4.0

        <pedant>

        "mythical "binary liquid explosive" from Die Hard 2"

        That would be 'Die Hard with a vengeance (the one with Samual L Jackson), not given a number, but the 3rd in the series. Not Die Hard 2 (the one in the airport)

        </pedant>

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge
          Flame

          @ James Micallef Re: Die Hard 4.0

          AC and me had successfully erased all memories of 'Die Hard 2 (Die Harder)' and considered that 'Die Hard' was directly followed by 'Die Hard with a vengeance'.

          No thanks to you for reminding us of the existence of this terrible movie.

        2. KeithR

          Re: Die Hard 4.0

          SamuEl.

    2. Graham Hawkins

      Re: Die Hard 4.0

      Don't hold your breath. Theresa hasn't worked out '1984' is a dystopian novel and not a blueprint for government yet...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Problem is....

    ... after all the lies they have told to date, if Cameron and Osborne told me the sun would rise tomorrow I would start having doubts as to the truth of the statement.

  9. Tom Wood

    Has Osborne just watched Spectre?

    a new "National Cyber Centre" which is described as "the countries first dedicated ‘cyber force’

    1. Fink-Nottle

      Re: Has Osborne just watched Spectre?

      I always thought 'cybering' was the IRC equivalent of phone sex.

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: Has Osborne just watched Spectre?

        At least this way we'll know where all the wankers are :p

  10. Haku

    Chancellor Osborne?

    Chancellor Palpatine more like.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Chancellor Osborne?

      > Chancellor Palpatine more like.

      Don't be silly - pre-deathmask stage he had incredible charisma. No one ever accused Dear George of that!

      1. ukgnome

        Re: Chancellor Osborne?

        And you can say what you like about Palpatine, but he was not a Tory, but he was a damn fine trade negotiator.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Chancellor Osborne?

          But for some reason he wanted to "kill them immediately". Never found out why.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We must prevent cyber attacks on our critical government systems at all costs.

    Step 1: Upgrade from Windows XP.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We must prevent cyber attacks on our critical government systems at all costs.

      Step 2: Windows for Warships (Win 2000) to migrate to Windows Vista

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: We must prevent cyber attacks on our critical government systems at all costs.

      You used the oxymoron deliberately, didn't you? We must make sure the utilities and infrascructure, hospitals etc are up and running. As for the rest - I mean, they can only get better, can't they?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wont get fixed until executives are held legally responsible for Information Security.

  13. wolfetone

    Well if the country is stupid enough to connect nuclear reactors to the internet so the operators can watch cat videos on YouTube, then everyone is going to have a bad time aren't they.

  14. ukgnome

    So George Osborne is now a terrorist then?

    In its broadest sense, terrorism is any act designed to cause terror, so by suggesting that IS is planning an attack is in a narrower sense, terrorism. Especially as it can be understood to feature a political objective.

    This constant scaremongering is pretty pathetic, I doubt that enough zealots have the ability to hack the UK. And surely if they went down the road of hiring skilled attackers then they would presumably have to put themselves to death immediately for paying for this foreign workforce. It should also be worth pointing out that when it comes to terrorism and the UK it is not very effective. During the London bombings on 7/7 there was a range of emotions, but the resounding emotion was akin to mild ambivalence. And that will never do!

    1. Tom Wood

      The Tories winning the election was pretty terrifying...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On the other hand I have it on good authority that a successful attack on our power infrastructure which results in total loss of power (don't forget it is more than just the power stations, you have to get that electricity around the place) then we will have troops on the street and martial law in 24 hours.

      That would be pretty terrifying.

      Considering how insecure most banks are (if you know what you are looking for) then I can't imagine a network as complex as the power infrastructure of an entire country is entirely, or even remotely, hack-proof.

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