National Security

Terrorists Are Close To Bringing Down Entire Cities With Cyber Attacks, Warns Top UK Spy

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

Terrorist groups like al-Qaida and Islamic State are inching closer to having the cyber capability to electronically shut down entire cities.

According to director of the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Robert Hannigan, as more items like cars become connected to the Internet, the risk to large cities and population centers grows.

“At some stage they will get the capability,” said Hannigan, speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival Thursday. “There are certainly states and groups with the intent to do it, terrorist groups, for example, who have no threshold when it comes to the loss of life.

“We’re not quite there yet, but as the world becomes ever more connected that will become a greater risk.”

The U.K. is poised to pass the Investigatory Powers bill. Should it pass, the controversial bill would give the U.K. government increased latitude in how it intercepts communication and collects bulk data.

The U.K.’s GCHQ is the the equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Both intelligence agencies specialize in communications and signals intelligence.

U.S. officials have also warned of the possibility for a debilitating cyber attack on American soil. Speaking at a West Point summit in April, NSA Deputy Director Richard Leggett explained the computer systems which run key U.S. infrastructure are at risk of being attacked by foreign actors.

“We have a very fragile infrastructure,” cybersecurity expert Mike Lloyd told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “America is the tall kid in dodge ball, but we are [also] the easier target. We shouldn’t think about where the cyber ‘Pearl Harbor’ will be.”

ISIS has largely used cyber capabilities as a defensive measure, particularly by using encryption in communications. That said, U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, has warned ISIS could go offensive by simply buying the technology.

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