UK's GCHQ spy chief: We must engage business to harness cyber talent for future

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency said on Wednesday it was seeking to engage more with business to harness top cyber talent behind programmes to accelerate world-class technology.

FILE PHOTO: GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming delivers a speech as he meets with Britain's Queen Elizabeth during her visit at the Watergate House to mark the centenary of the GCHQ (Government Communications Head Quarters) in London, Britain, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool

“We have a whole range of accelerator programmes...and we’re looking to do much more of that,” Jeremy Fleming told the Atlantic Future Forum. “Defence becomes: how good are we at looking after our emerging technologies?

“We are trying to create ecosystems that bring in academia. They encompass start-ups, they bring venture capital, they bring business expertise and from time to time they also bring deep technical covert knowledge from GCHQ,” Fleming said.

GCHQ is Britain’s main eavesdropping agency and has a close relationship with the U.S. National Security Agency as well as with the eavesdropping agencies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in a consortium called “Five Eyes”.

Fleming, a former MI5 officer who has headed GCHQ since 2017, outlined a future heavily reliant on data and technology.

“We need to have a different debate with our publics, with our government, our parliament but also between allies on how we use that data and what privacy really means today,” he said.

Fleming said his organisation was not diverse enough, with far too few people from ethnic minorities, adding, “I’m interested in attracting a different set of minds.”

Asked what kept him awake at night, Fleming said one of his top concerns was that the security and defence services were able to organise themselves quickly enough to defend against the full range of modern security threats.

“I do worry that we are coming together quickly enough to produce the institutions, the global alliances that are going to take on the mantle from the (post-war) Bretton Woods system and really see us into this digital and technology age.”

Fleming had a warning for adversaries.

“If you seek to use cyberspace as a place where you are going to...promote your values or try and degrade our interests, then we will be there to compete against you,” he said.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison and Mark Heinrich