back to article GCHQ boss warns China can rewrite 'the global operating system' in its own authoritarian image

The director of the UK's signals intelligence agency has delivered a speech in which he contemplated power in the digital age, observing that "China's size and technological weight means that it has the potential to control the global operating system," and hinting at an expanded role for the agency he leads as one way to fight …


        1. claimed

          Re: Didnt you notice

          According to an article that actually links to the police website, a page which (below) states that the proposal related to off road bikes (can't comment on the original, its gone!) and has caused concern so the police are now working with bike groups for more acceptable approaches. Translation, it was a political "tough on crime" statement which doesn't merit, "the UK is NO better than China" from the OP.

  1. Abominator

    I sense there are lots of trolls today.

  2. John Robson Silver badge

    Cry me a river...

    "things like elements of the cryptographic technologies"

    Won't you think of the children?

  3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Really, el Reg!

    You have a report of a sypmaster named Fleming and not one bad pun or double entrendre?

    I'll leave you with Mitchell & Webb on be-tuxedo'd one:

    1. _LC_ Silver badge

      Re: Really, el Reg!

      Why did I have to think about the Queen?

  4. steelpillow Silver badge

    History - did I hear you say something?

    A hundred years ago, Britain's General Post Office (GPO) controlled the global operating system through its globe-circling telegraphy cable network. It was the only nation with cables you could not cut in wartime, because the message would just go round the other way. And it was so ubiquitous that many nations hung off it rather than lay their own links. In many ways, the role of GCHQ grew out of the GPO's "Dark Rooms" where intercept was gathered and decoded.

    When the Internet was developed, the USA seized the chance to finally wrest its governance from the GPO and grab it through ICANN, the IETF and the Internet Society. Companies such as Cisco took over the "It's easier through us" and "pipe it on to the NSA" roles.

    China has got a bit fed up with all this and wants its Dark Room folks to have their own toys.

    GCHQ would rather like to throw those toys out of the pram so everybody plays with theirs.

    I do wish these nationalist propagandists would realise that playing nationalism with global privacy and security standards is much like playing nationalism with Covid vaccines; it just hurts the people you are trying to protect and gives you a bad name. The W3C is international in scope, the Internet standards organisations should be too.

    1. FlamingDeath Silver badge

      Re: History - did I hear you say something?

      I tend to refer to them as the unintelligent and insecurity services, doesn’t matter which nation it is

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Banned from using US software. Now China makes its own OS.

    The Americans banned Huawei and other Chinese companies from using US (i.e. Google) software and forced them to make their own OS. So they shouldn't complain about what is their decision. The Chinese were quite happy for the US to control the "global operating system".

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Screw them

    So the people behind the internet standards have pushed the availability of anonymity, strong cryptography, fault resilience (being able to route around faults, including "faults" being someone trying to "shut down" internet connectivity.) GCHQ (and equivalents in the US) have directly opposed this, wanting every tool an authoritarian regime would want; then have the nerve to bitch when someone besides themselves decides to take full advantage of this.

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    To imagine it for tomorrow rather than realise it active long before yesterday is a huge mistake.

    Lest one forgets the true current confounding nature of presently changed and continually changing realities, with parties one would never even dream of being effectively involved and instrumental in highly disruptive anonymised shenanigans in the driving seats exercising remarkable controls .........

    And those non fungible skills are a global treat and universal threat simply transferred at the click of a mouse to anyone virtually practically anywhere interesting and interested on the planet.

    That takes the notion of upwardly mobile on the corporate executive office ladder to the nth degree onto a whole other plane of existential play with quantum bit and pieces...... where a this is also enabled to be a that and together entangled something else again altogether different and singularly potent and instructive/attractive and rewarding.

    And it is not something nor anything one can just ignore and pretend does not exist, and deny is not tearing systems and structures apart to their very cores ...... although there are always those old diehard blowhards who will try and fail both miserably and abysmally.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To imagine it... ...long before mistake.

      Canadian English is still an easy-to-understand internetional English, with other details being not so much important in comparison... (-:

      1. osakajin Silver badge

        Re: To imagine it... ...long before mistake.

        "internehtional" surely.

  8. Tron

    Big Brother GCHQ defending democracy? Best laugh I've had all week.

    This all sounds a bit like the Brexit propaganda for leaving the EU. Exactly where is this mighty UK-based tech industry that is leading the world but might be lost to China?

    I would guess that the governmental attacks on encryption, which is fundamental to a secure internet, are promoted and supported by GCHQ, because they want to spy on UK citizens. I expect GCHQ will want to see much of the future of tech - distributed systems, peer-to-peer and ad hoc networking, distributed routing, distributed VPNs - banned in the UK on the grounds of national security, as it all might imperil national security, women, children and cute furry animals. To build the future of tech, whilst I wouldn't advise going to China, you may have to go abroad, assuming the prison gates are ever opened. If not, you will have to work virtually for a foreign company, trying to dodge becoming an enemy of the people.

    As for the Great British Internet Industry, the big names are notably not of UK origin. I suppose Friends Reunited was created by plucky Brits, but it didn't end well.

    There may be UK-origin operating systems (post-BBC BASIC), social media networks, browsers, Office packages and Search engines, but they don't spring to mind when listing the main global players. Psion have gone. We have the Raspberry Pi, but it is hardly mainstream consumer tech. We had ARM of course, but flogged it off.

    We don't have a SoftBank or a LINE or a Samsung or a Nokia or anything approaching GAFA. Does anyone in the UK actually manufacture any high tech consumer goods from the ground up? If not, then the regulatory isolation that Brexit could potentially create may see us locked out of the 'global operating system'. And a ban on anything Chinese in tech will knock us back to the 1970s. I was going to say 1980s, but we manufactured some world leading micros then. Now it is just the Pi.

    The UK has Venture Capital, but VC is not tech, it is finance. Money in, money out & walk away with the profits. We have stacks of ingenuity, but if you want to do something interesting, you may have to work with people over the prison walls and across the briny deep in Terra Incognito. If GCHQ let you.

    The truth is that the UK is becoming more like China, with the government giving itself the right to spy on all of its citizens, block search results and web addresses, and block the free movement of goods and people. The difference is that the UK government tries to do it indirectly, so they don't look like something nasty and Orwellian, whilst Beijing just does it openly.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Big Brother GCHQ defending democracy? Best laugh I've had all week.

      We have stacks of ingenuity, but if you want to do something interesting, you may have to work with people over the prison walls and across the briny deep in Terra Incognito. If GCHQ let you. ..... Tron

      Given the very particular and peculiar nature of many of the works which are now being done somewhat autonomously and anonymously, and which might be of very specific concern to the likes of an Orwellian GCHQ, to even imagine that GCHQ would be able prevent anyone able in such fields from doing exactly as they themselves want, is surely risible and delusional.

      And that is what has everyone in those older establishment systems of command and control so terrified and twitchy. It is only natural, .... such blind panic and endemic horror.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Big Brother GCHQ defending democracy? Best laugh I've had all week.

      To build the future of tech, whilst I wouldn't advise going to China, you may have to go abroad, assuming the prison gates are ever opened. If not, you will have to work virtually for a foreign company, trying to dodge becoming an enemy of the people. We don't have a SoftBank ..... Tron

      Oh, .... and there I was thinking the UK finally had, and now you're sort of telling me to consider it a fad, Tron? How very disappointing.

      The new UK Infrastructure Bank will harness the skills of our engineers and the innovation of our architects and designers to make major new projects a reality. It will add expertise and capacity to local governments and help them to realise their plans. And most importantly it will help us to build back better, fairer and greener. ..... Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer ......

      If the UK does have big Venture Capital to release and activate and utilise for any perceived and/or recognised latent potential in a nationalised private public or pirate proprietary intellectual property portfolio, now is certainly an excellent time to deposit it with Appropriate ACTive Actors/Prime Premium Drivers, otherwise fertile thoughts of fraudulent shenanigans and dodgy slush funds and monumental theft grow roots to emerge as a diseased crop which blights vast fields of tricky dicky finance with ponzi plantations of institutional vapourware.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Big Brother GCHQ defending democracy is No Laughing Matter when a Fake AI Premis.

        Big Brother GCHQ, UKGBNI and the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street DO KNOW what happens whenever they do not step up to the plate to admirably quickly quite quietly donate public pirate private slush funding and Venture Capital to Appropriate ACTive Actors/Prime Premium Drivers?

        That failure to be wonderfully obliging creates a beautifully hostile takeover bid scenario which naturally gifts recognised latent potential in a nationalisable private public or pirate proprietary intellectual property portfolio elsewhere foreign and alien ..... so it is no small disaster to be held fully responsible and accountable for.

        It also has one mulling over the distinct and surprising possibility, and therefore most likely amazing probability, that the advanced intelligence one thought available in established state and non-state actors for engagement and employment in enjoyment and exploitation in a Capital Venture is not present in any required necessary valuable form, and their entire range of Elite Executive and Mass Administrative SCADA Systems is laid out before one wide open to defenceless attack and crushing conquest. ....... Almighty Overwhelmingly Catastrophic Defeat.

  9. james 68


    "Cryptography is important and necessary so give us all the money" says the GCHQ guy who wants to weaken and backdoor cryptography.

    A facepalm moment of epic proportions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      About "...weaken and backdoor cryptography...."



      You forgot to mention that you are talking about cryptography run by internet service providers. So...yes...GCHQ would like backdoors, and analysis tools to target service providers.


      Quote: "...Cryptography is important and necessary ..."


      But you need to think about users too. Some users are using private ciphers before messages enter any channel on the internet. This approach means that when GCHQ extract messages using the (secret) backdoors, all they extract are private cipher messages like this. Good luck! How much money does GCHQ need to address hundreds of private ciphers like this????

































      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: About "...weaken and backdoor cryptography...." @Anonymous Coward

        AC, some secrets users prefer the facility and simplicity of the steganography utility for widespread education and sublime stealthy instruction/virtually protected sensitive advice rather than trusting that task to cryptography, hoping that it remains unbroken to ensure that profound activities remain generally largely unknown and an elitist affair in exclusive pastimes.

        I suppose which one is the better of two with regards to performance depends upon what one would be doing in the present and planning to try to do in the near future. To imagine being able to set anything up now in order to greatly materially effect anything a great deal further into the future than the likes of a tomorrow or two or three, is surely too fantastic to be considered reliable and viable.

        Although to some, which is clearly best is beyond question and pretty darned obvious. Steg beats crypto hands down every time.

      2. james 68

        Re: About "...weaken and backdoor cryptography...."

        But I'm not just talking about the cryptography of service providers, GCHQ want all crypto provided in the UK to be compromised, be it Joe public, universities or companies. When any of the above can and do work on projects which fall under the umbrella of "national security interests" it shows how daft the idea of compromised crypto is when they say that they need compromised crypto for national security but they also need strong crypto for national security. There's a logical fallacy in there about snakes eating their own tails.

  10. Tempest

    Oh Dear, Some Government Snob Has His Pants in a Twist

    The fact is Russia and China, amongst others, ARE PRESENTLY SMARTER than Western security entities. Why is it Fleming think he and his ilk is so good? Revise your tenses, Fleming.

    If Fleming and Company are so good how come that invasions of Western assets are only discovered months after the intruders have left?

    Because Fleming, et al, has dropped the ball(s). They are still dreaming in terms of 'empire'.

  11. s_simp

    Utter Tosh & Codswallop

    The "Global Operating System" my goodness well surely that would be "Plan 9" by Bell Labs - which last time I checked was written in Alef - which is the first language of the Hebrews not the Chinese.

    OpenBSD then builds on that foundation and produces arguably what could probably be classed as "the best firewall in the world!" no surprises there!

    So I guess it really does boil down to which "Global Operating System" he's referring too, maybe he means Microsoft Windows or Apple or Android - last time I checked those where the only ones that tolerated dictatorial relationships with the likes of "Republican Party" spies looking to fiddle there bosses bank balance.

    Unless of course he means the Chinese wish to re-write Windows or Ubuntu Kylin with its closed source device drivers - then there entirely welcome to, as the way I see it, it would certainly be an improvement on what's on offer at the moment, which is all translated down the pipe as "America is Spying on you" to make the world a safer place and protect you all from those nasty nationalist socialist's from the GOP!

    Yeah ok... We're all ears Mr Fleming!


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