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ISPs to take GCHQ to court over malware use during 'illegal' snooping

Firms demand an end to exploitation of internet and communication service
Wed Jul 02 2014, 13:06
GCHQ Cheltenham

A GROUP of seven internet service providers (ISPs) from around the globe are looking to take the UK's GCHQ to court over its alleged use of "malicious software" to attack their respective network infrastructures.

The seven companies - Riseup (US), Greennet (UK), Greenhost (Netherlands), Mango (Zimbabwe), Jinbonet (Korea), May First/People Link (US), and the Chaos Computer Club (Germany) - along with Privacy International - have lodged complaints with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The complaints follow a number of reports at Der Spiegel, which alleged that the GCHQ had carried out attacks on telecoms firms, targeting individuals with malware in order to bypass encryption and gain access to potentially "millions" of people's private communications.

The complaint alleges that the attacks were a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, The Guardian notes, and an interference with the privacy rights of the employees under the European convention on human rights.

For example, the German magazine revealed that employees of Belgian firm Belgacom were individually targed by malware through a developed attack called "Quantum Insert", and claimed that both the GCHQ and NSA used a "man on the side" technique that covertly injected data into existing data streams in order to create connections that enabled targeted infection of users.

As noted by Privacy International, the claimants "assert that GCHQ's attacks on providers are not only illegal, but are destructive, undermine the goodwill the organisations rely on, and damage the trust in security and privacy that makes the internet such a crucial tool of communication and empowerment," adding that the firms are "demanding an end to such exploitation of internet and communications services".

Cedric Knight of UK firm Greennet said in a statement, "Snowden's revelations have exposed GCHQ's view that independent operators like Greennet are legitimate targets for internet surveillance, so we could be unknowingly used to collect data on our users.

"We say this is unlawful and utterly unacceptable in a democracy. Our long established network of NGOs and charities, or simply individuals who value our independent and ethical standpoint, rely on us for a level of integrity they can't get from mainstream ISPs.

"Our entire modus operandi is threatened by this illegal and intrusive mass surveillance." µ


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