Robert Hannigan

Director of GCHQ (2014-17)

Speaker Themes

  • Cyber security
  • Cyber crime
  • Defence policy
  • Terrorism

Travels from



Robert Hannigan was Director of GCHQ, the UK’s largest intelligence and security agency, from 2014-17. He is a leading authority on cyber security, cyber conflict and the application of technology in national security.

He established the National Cyber Security Centre as part of GCHQ in 2016, having been responsible for the UK’s cyber strategy in 2009, the first of any Western country. He set the Government’s ambition of making the UK ‘the safest place to live and do business online’ and was also responsible for leading, with military colleagues, the national offensive cyber programme.

Robert Hannigan has spent much of his career in national security. He was the UK Prime Minister’s Security Adviser at No10 from 2007-10, with a particular focus on Islamist terrorism, and was responsible in the Cabinet Office for the Single Intelligence Account (covering MI5, GCHQ and SIS).

He chaired ‘COBR’ through numerous crises and was a longstanding member of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which he chaired in 2011-12. As Director General for Defence and Intelligence in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, he was the lead adviser on counter-proliferation and other defence policy areas, as well as advising Foreign Secretary William Hague on intelligence policy and operations. He came to London from Belfast, where he was Tony Blair’s senior official on the Northern Ireland peace process, responsible for negotiations with political parties, paramilitaries and with the Irish and US Governments.

Robert Hannigan is credited with bringing greater openness to the work of GCHQ, not least in an effort to promote cyber skills across the UK. Boris Johnson also referred publicly to his internal transformation of the organisation to make it fit for the digital era.

Robert caused international controversy on his first day in office in 2014 by criticising Silicon Valley companies in the Financial Times, but he has also spoken at MIT in defence of strong encryption and US technology leadership. He has a particular interest in Bletchley Park and the history of technology, computing and cryptology. He is a member of the Government’s new Defence Innovation Advisory Panel.

A Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Belfer centre, an Honorary Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford and a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Robert Hannigan was also awarded the US Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal.

He is currently Executive Chairman and Global Head of Strategy of BlueVoyant Europe.

For more information on Robert Hannigan’s speaking topics and availability, contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at


Cyber security is a major concern for nation states in the digital age, and Robert Hannigan has been a pioneer in developing strategies to help countries cope with these new risks. He talks with great clarity on today’s major cyber threats, and about the steps governments and businesses can take to make their operations safer.

Robert Hannigan’s topics include; innovation, technology, China, crisis management, cyber security and geopolitics. 

Contact us about Robert Hannigan