Tuesday, August 23, 2016

GCHQ spies given enhanced hacking powers — what are they and should we be worried?

British spies at GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 have effectively been given the green light to continue their mass spying operations around the world after a fresh independent review into bulk surveillance powers found 'no viable alternative' to the current regime.

Compiled by David Anderson QC, the hefty 200-plus page report was commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May while in her previous role of home secretary.

It looked specifically at the somewhat controversial aspects of bulk interception, bulk acquisition and bulk personal datasets – many of which were first exposed by former NSA analyst-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden back in 2013.

Despite support for many of the current spying practices used by the Security and intelligence agencies (SIAs), the main criticism – or concern – in the report appears to centre around so-called 'bulk equipment interference', which is more commonly known as computer hacking.

Previously dubbed 'computer network exploitation' (CNE), this is the one aspect of UK spying apparatus without a proven operational basis. In theory, it's the one majorly enhanced power the upcoming Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the Snoopers' Charter, will grant UK spooks.


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