Organising a Government for Cyber: The Creation of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre

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Main Image Credit National Cyber Security Centre. Courtesy of  Kirsty O'Connor/PA Archive/PA Images

In this Occasional Paper, former director GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, recounts the creation of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and identifies future challenges.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen in February 2017. It was the first national cyber centre to bring together government, intelligence agencies and the private sector in one organisation, providing a unified source of advice, guidance and support on cyber security, including the management of cyber security incidents. In doing so, the NCSC has improved understanding of, and the response to, the most important cyber threats to the UK. 

Robert Hannigan was director GCHQ when the NCSC was created, and was closely involved before that in cyber and information security issues at a senior level in roles in the Foreign Office and Cabinet Office. In this Occasional Paper he provides a unique first-hand account of the development of the UK government’s approach to cyber security, and the creation of the NCSC. In that sense, this is not a traditional research paper, but a personal perspective from someone who has been closely involved in these issues, aimed at informing policymakers, practitioners and researchers.  

In the second half of the paper, the author offers thoughts on future cyber-related challenges. While governments, the private sector and researchers continue to develop different approaches to cyber security, the threat, policy and technology landscapes evolve at pace. This account of the creation of the NCSC, and the wider UK national strategy, offers perspectives relevant both to the further development of the UK’s own cyber strategy and to those seeking to tackle the same challenges elsewhere.


Robert Hannigan CMG

Distinguished Fellow

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