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Watching them, watching us : First ever pictures from inside the heart of Britain's GCHQ spying station show intelligence agency keeping eyes (and ears) on global communications

  • GCHQ is home to one of three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies 
  • Visit granted by David Cameron who wants to give agencies access to encrypted communications
  • Yesterday, a report stated 80 per cent of big firms suffered cyber attacks
  • These crimes cost the UK economy millions of pounds annually
  • GCHQ has increased communication with private firms because of threat



News cameras have been allowed unprecedented access to a top secret Government spy agency as it announces eight in every 10 of the biggest British companies have suffered a serious cyber attack. 
The media was allowed to film in the secretive GCHQ in Cheltenham, which is home to one of the three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies, along with MI5 and MI6.
The visit comes after staff at the HQ, known as The Doughnut due to the shape of the building, were involved in the response to last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.

GCHQ identifies cyber espionage activity targeting UK industry and individuals, and gathers intelligence to better understand new and emerging threats
GCHQ identifies cyber espionage activity targeting UK industry and individuals, and gathers intelligence to better understand new and emerging threats

Access: The media was allowed to film in the secretive GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham, which is home to one of the three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies, along with MI5 and MI6
Access: The media was allowed to film in the secretive GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham, which is home to one of the three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies, along with MI5 and MI6



A GCHQ report was released yesterday revealing that serious cyber attacks cost the UK economy millions of pounds annually. 
The agency, along with MI5 and the Cabinet Office, has increased communication with private firms because the threat posed by cyber attacks has risen. 
The visit to the HQ was granted by David Cameron who is pushing to give agencies like GCHQ access to encrypted communications.
Last night, the Prime Minister warned internet firms they must work with security agencies to stop their networks becoming a 'safe haven' for terrorists.
He used a press conference in the White House in the U.S. to insist the likes of Facebook and and WhatsApp cannot be used as a secret way for extremists to plot atrocities away from the glare of MI5 and the FBI.
Mr Cameron insists the security agencies must be able to intercept communications between extremists and terror suspects who use encrypted messaging services and social media sites to plot atrocities.
He said: 'I take a very simple approach to this, which is ever since we've been sending letters to each other or making telephone calls to each other or mobile phone calls to each other or, indeed, contacting each other on the internet, it has been possible in both our countries in extremis, in my country by signed warrant by the Home Secretary, to potentially listen to a call between two terrorists, to stop them in their activity. 

'The Doughnut': The Government Communication Headquarters base in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
'The Doughnut': The Government Communication Headquarters base in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

GCHQ protects the UK and its citizens, keeps deployed forces safe and helps law enforcement agencies to prevent terrorist activity and serious and organised crime
GCHQ protects the UK and its citizens, keeps deployed forces safe and helps law enforcement agencies to prevent terrorist activity and serious and organised crime

Film crew: The visit to the HQ was granted by David Cameron who is pushing to give agencies like GCHQ access to encrypted communications
Film crew: The visit to the HQ was granted by David Cameron who is pushing to give agencies like GCHQ access to encrypted communications

Response: The visit comes after staff at the HQ, known as The Doughnut due to the shape of the building, were involved in the response to last week's terrorist attacks in Paris
Response: The visit comes after staff at the HQ, known as The Doughnut due to the shape of the building, were involved in the response to last week's terrorist attacks in Paris

Prime Minister: Last night, David Cameron warned internet firms they must work with security agencies to stop their networks becoming a 'safe haven' for terrorists
Prime Minister: Last night, David Cameron warned 
internet firms they must work with security 
agencies to stop their networks becoming a 'safe
 haven' for terrorists

 'We're not asking for back doors. We have - we believe in very clear front doors through legal processes that should help to keep our country safe.
'And my only argument is that as technology develops, as the world moves on, we should try to avoid the safe havens that could otherwise be created for terrorists to talk to each other.
'That's the goal that I think is so important. Because I'm in no doubt as, having been Prime Minister for four-and-a-half years, having seen how our intelligence services work, I know that some of these plots that get prevented, the lives that get saved.
'There is a very real connection between that and the capabilities that our intelligence services, within the law, use to defend our people.' 
GCHQ protects the UK and its citizens, keeps deployed forces safe and helps law enforcement agencies to prevent terrorist activity and serious and organised crime.
The agency identifies cyber espionage activity targeting UK industry and individuals, and gathers intelligence to better understand new and emerging threats.
It also strives to safeguard current systems, communications and electronic data. 

Unprecedented: The visit comes after staff at the HQ, known as The Doughnut due to the shape of the building, were involved in the response to last week's terrorist attacks in Paris
Unprecedented: The visit comes after staff at the HQ, known as The Doughnut due to the shape of the building, were involved in the response to last week's terrorist attacks in Paris

GCHQ's electronic monitoring network of satellites and ground stations covers every part of the globe, eavesdropping on military, commercial and diplomatic communications
GCHQ's electronic monitoring network of satellites and ground stations covers every part of the globe, eavesdropping on military, commercial and diplomatic communications

Expansion: GCHQ is a far cry from what was formerly known as the Government Code and Cipher School, founded in 1919 with just 25 cryptologists and 30 support staff
Expansion: GCHQ is a far cry from what was formerly known as the Government Code and Cipher School, founded in 1919 with just 25 cryptologists and 30 support staff

The agency's renowned intelligence-gathering expertise is seen as a key weapon in the war against terrorism
The agency's renowned intelligence-gathering expertise is seen as a key weapon in the war against terrorism
 

INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: LINGUISTS, MATHEMATICIANS AND DOUGHNUTS

GCHQ was set up secretly in 1952 as an intelligence and security organisation working closely with other agencies including MI5 and MI6.
Its £1.1billion base in Cheltenham is nicknamed The Doughnut because of its shape.
The extraordinary structure is the size of the old Wembley Stadium.
GCHQ's electronic monitoring network of satellites and ground stations covers every part of the globe, eavesdropping on military, commercial and diplomatic communications, and its renowned intelligence-gathering expertise is seen as a key weapon in the war against terrorism.
It is a far cry from what was formerly known as the Government Code and Cipher School, founded in 1919 with just 25 cryptologists and 30 support staff.
Their secret base then was at Bletchley Park, a manor house in Buckinghamshire where British intelligence created Colossus, the world's first electronic computer.



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