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GCHQ plans to use DNS filter to counter cyber-attacks

16 September 2016

The chief of GCHQ and the new NCSC said that the spy agencies planned to partner with UK ISPs to use DNS filtering to curb cyber-attacks.

Speaking at the Billington Cyber-Security Summit, Ciaran Martin, boss of Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) and the new public-facing National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), spoke of the spy agency's plan to use DNS filters to curb cyber-attacks.

Martin said in his speech, ''We're exploring a flagship project on scaling up DNS filtering: what better way of providing automated defences at scale than by the major private providers effectively blocking their customers from coming into contact with known malware and bad addresses? Now it's crucial that all of these economy-wide initiatives are private sector led. The government does not own or operate the internet. Consumers must have a choice. Any DNS filtering would have to be opt out based. So addressing privacy concerns and citizen choice is hardwired into our programme.''

GCHQ is said to routinely use DNS filtering to filter out certain part of the internet which the government asked to be banned. Among the most notable and recent cases was ex-prime minister David Cameron's decision to ban certain types of pornographic content.

The spy agency was now considering the using the same method to block known bad web addresses capable of infecting a machine with malware, often disguised as legitimate domains.

Among the NCSC's plans is development of automated defences to protect against high-volume but relatively unsophisticated cyber-attacks.

The NCSC would prioritise the defence of government networks and those of national level importance, but Martin also dwelt on ways in which it would consider improving the UK's overall cybersecurity.

The digital economy contributed to one-eighth of the UK's gross domestic product (GDP), the highest in the G20 group of industrialised economies, and Martin said retaining public confidence in online transactions and ensuring economic growth was a priority in the same way as protecting national security.

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