Spies from the US and the UK hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world and stole encryption keys used to protect the privacy of mobile phones.
According to the latest release from the Edward Snowden cache, the hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.
It all happened in 2010 when GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s mobiles, including both voice and data.
Gemalto, a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands, makes chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world.
It makes two billion SIM cards a year and with the stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies could monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments.
British spies mined the private communications of unwitting engineers and other company employees in multiple countries.
Apparently, Gemalto did not notice and still cannot work out how it was done.
According to one secret GCHQ slide, the British intelligence agency penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks, planting malware on several computers, giving GCHQ access.
For all the internet spying that GCHQ has been doing, it does not appear to be helping it in its primary job of tracking down serious criminals and terrorists.
According to the Daily Telegraph, GCHQ has lost track of some of the most dangerous crime lords and has had to abort surveillance on others.
The spooks are blaming the fact that Edward Snowden revealed their tactics, although, they pretty much would say that that anyway.
One major drug smuggling gang has been able to continue flooding the UK with Class A narcotics unimpeded for the last year after changing their operations, moaned the spooks.
More intense tracking of others has either been abandoned or not started because of fears the tactics are now too easy to spot and will force the criminals to “go dark” and be lost sight of completely.
They have also been stuffed up because telecoms companies are no longer grassing up customers and are refusing to hand over evidence on the likes of drug smugglers or fraudsters because they do not pose a “direct threat to life”.
“We have specific evidence of where key targets have changed their communication behaviour as a direct result of what they have read.
Apparently gangs have moved to more secure forms of communication or moved entirely on to the dark web where it is far harder to track them. However GCHQ seems to want people to believe that serious criminals were not using the dark web before Snowden and that James Bond can only get into Internet places which can be searched by Google.
All that major drug smuggling network did to make it become invisible is to change a few lines of code in its web-pages which stopped its actions being seen by search engines.
Intelligence officers are now electing not to order deeper surveillance on targets, in the hope of gaining sufficient evidence to prosecute them, because they fear it could alert them to the fact they are being watched.
Of course GCHQ’s answer to the problem is to bring in even more internet spying because that worked so well before.
British spooks have been using the systems set up by the US National Security Agency to spy on everyone without a warrant.
The agreement between the NSA and GCHQ means that the internet and phone data of Americans is in the hands of the Brits without legal oversight.
The data, once obtained, can be kept for up to two years. GCHQ was forced to reveal that it can request and receive vast quantities of raw, unanalysed data collected from foreign governments it partners with during legal proceedings in a closed court hearing in a case brought by various international human-rights organisations, including Privacy International, Liberty UK, and Amnesty International.
It is well known that the NSA and GCHQ share intelligence data with one another, as part of a long-standing surveillance partnership, but this is the first time the British government has disclosed that it does not require a warrant to access data collected and maintained by its American chums. This flies in the face of statements made by an oversight committee of the British Parliament in July of last year.
At the time, Parliament was told that “in each case where GCHQ sought information from the US, a warrant for interception, signed by a minister, was already in place.” Clearly GCHQ forgot to mention mass data which it mines for data.
It was a night of fun, glitz and fashion as Hollywood’s A-listers stepped out to celebrate and show off their frocks at the 2013 Oscars.
And this year the red carpet was awash with pale colours, giving the event a vintage, old school glamour theme.
Jennifer Lawrence, who admitted she was “starving” – a feeling we imagine is quite common for many celebs – went for a white and pale pink strapless Dior gown with a full skirt and ruffled hemline.
Amy Adams opted for an Oscar de la Renta ballgown, which was a stark contrast to the her usual statement column dresses, while Anne Hathaway kept the colour tone light with simple pale pink Prada column gown, which she claimed had been chosen just hours before the event.
Jessica Chastain, also gave a nod to vintage Hollywood with a shiny copper Armani Prive dress and gold was also the colour of choice for Catherine Zeta-Jones who rocked up in a Zuhair Murad number.
However, some celebs opted for bolder hues in a bid to stand out from the fash pack. Jennifer Garner chose a strapless magenta ruffled back Gucci gown, while Reese Witherspoon also broke the pale mould turning up in a bold blue column dress.
Sequins, which we thought had been put away along with that Christmas tree also reared their sparkly heads, with a number of celebrities opting for this style. Adele wore a black, sequinned Jenny Packham frock, Naomi Watts went for a gunmetal sequin Armani gown and Nicole Kidman was a sequin queen in a gown by L’Wren Scott.
Over in the male clothing camp, one thing that stood out amongst the huge range of designer tux was the sheer number of celebs sporting facial hair.
This generation of the Brat Pack including Bradley Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck all went for beards, while it was mustaches for Jason Schwartzman and Chris Pine.