Former GCHQ’s Director Robert Hannigan – ‘accomplishing mission impossible’

Robert Hannigan, Former Director, United Kingdom Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was recently interviewed alongside Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency by David Ignatius, Associate Editor and Columnist, The Washington Post at the Aspen Security Forum.

In the session entitled ‘Mission Possible’ Admiral Rogers and Robert Hannigan explain how they go about accomplishing their mission impossible. The Commander of US Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency has never been busier with the perennial intelligence task of trying to distinguish the signal from the noise. Adding to the challenge are cyber threats from nation states and non-state actors that are unprecedented in their scale and sophistication. Fortunately, he has help from across the pond from the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters.

Hannigan and Rogers both acknowledge the pace of change in security over the past 10 years and the rate at which they expect change to continue.

Hannigan goes on to describe the relationship between US technology companies and intelligence agencies, having been known for recognising the initially difficult relations between the two. At the initial stages of his role as Director of GCHQ, Hannigan wrote for the Financial Times, stating the need for a new, better relationship. Years on, Hannigan states that tech companies are now becoming more helpful in assisting intelligence agencies with cyber security, as well as new legislation that is contributing to a “more sensible” cyber security climate.

Finally Keynote Speaker Robert Hannigan discusses the new operational arm of GCHQ, the National Cyber Security Centre, in the UK. He describes the centre as being “driven by people and data” with a mission that attracts the best cyber security talent. Hannigan finishes by explaining the critical importance of fusing the data available, open-source, in the private sector, with the skill of intelligence agencies.

The Aspen Security Forum aims to answer critical questions about national and homeland security. Key security issues of present times are explored in depth over three days of discussion by top level present and former government officials from all relevant agencies such as the Departments of Homeland Security, Defence, State, Justice, and the Treasury, industry leaders, including large and small national security-related companies, as well as private equity investors, merchant and investment bankers, venture capitalists, and other financiers; thought leaders in other think tanks and academe; and nationally noted print and broadcast journalists.

Watch the interview in full below:

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