UK spooks can spy on anyone anywhere

GCHQ buildingThere has been a gasp of horror after it was announced that US spooks wanted the power to spy on anyone, anywhere – but it turns out that their British counterparts have been doing that already.

The UK, granted similar powers to its own intelligence services and is now revealing it.

According to Privacy International , the British Government has admitted its intelligence services have the broad power to hack into personal phones, computers, and communications networks, and claims they are legally justifed to hack anyone, anywhere in the world, even if the target is not a threat to national security nor suspected of any crime.

The admission was was made in what the UK government calls its “Open Response” to court cases started last year against GCHQ.

Buried deep within the document, Government lawyers claim that while the intelligence services require authorisation to hack into the computer and mobile phones of “intelligence targets”, GCHQ is equally permitted to break into computers anywhere in the world even if they are not connected to a crime or a threat to national security.

The intelligence services are allowed to exploit communications networks in covert manoeuvres that severely undermine the security of the entire internet. This was how GCHQ hacked into Belgacom using the malware Regin, and targeted Gemalto, the world’s largest maker of SIM cards used in countries around the world.

Many people had assumed that this was the case. But court cases against the UK’s GCHQ are ferreting out numerous details that were previously secret. This shows the value of the strategy, and suggests it should be used again where possible.