The UK Government has admitted that its intelligence services are allowed to to hack into phones, computers, and other networks worldwide, even if the target has not been identified as a threat to national security, or a criminal suspect. This admission has come to light in a court document published by Privacy International.
In the document, Government lawyers maintain that authorisation is required to hack into devices owned by intelligence targets, but that GCHQ can break into any computer in the world, even if it does not belong to any intelligence target or criminal suspect. While many were aware of the legislation, it has never been stated so publicly just how wide the powers are.
Privacy International explains that, “The intelligence services assert the right to exploit communications networks in covert manoeuvres that severely undermine the security of the entire internet.” They cite the examples of GCHQ hacking into Belgacom with the malware Regin, and targeting Gemalto, the world’s largest maker of SIM cards.
Eric King, Deputy Director of Privacy International, said:
The Government has been deep in the hacking business for nearly a decade, yet they have never once been held accountable for their actions. They have granted themselves incredible powers to break into the devices we hold near and dear, the phones and computers that are so integral to our lives. What’s worse is that without any legitimate legal justification, they think they have the authority to target anyone they wish, no matter if they are suspected of a crime. This suspicionless hacking must come to an end and the activities of our intelligence agencies must be brought under the rule of law.
As TechDirt points out, it’s important that the information is made public, but this is only happening because individuals and groups are bringing court cases against GCHQ.
Featured image courtesy of Mashable