UK intelligence service GCHQ is on trial for hacking

The UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal is hearing complaints filed by Privacy International and seven communications companies and ISPs

GCHQ, the British signals intelligence service, is in the dock accused of hacking computers without individual warrants in order to tap communications.

The allegations, made by messaging providers and campaign groups GreenNet, RiseUp Networks, Chaos Computer Club and Privacy International, among others, concern the use by the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters of "thematic warrants" to hack computers. They began making their cases to the U.K.'s Investigatory Powers Tribunal in London on Tuesday, in hearings scheduled to run through Friday.

GCHQ first admitted to hacking in February following Privacy International's initial legal challenge.

Documents released by the court on Tuesday confirm that GCHQ hacks computers without individual warrants, according to Privacy International, which published the documents on its website.

The campaign groups were not the only ones concerned about the extent and lawfulness of GCHQ's activities: The U.K.'s Commissioner of the Intelligence Services investigated in 2014, eventually publishing a report in July this year expressing concerns that the warrants relied on by GCHQ were too broad.

The court documents show that U.K. Secretary of State does not individually approve hacking operations outside the U.K. unless they involve "additional sensitivity" or "political risk," Privacy International said.

Furthermore, when there are explicit authorizations, they do not identify or describe the equipment to be hacked, or even name the equipment users to be spied on, it said.

The full extent of the U.K. intelligence services' hacking activities will never be known as the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) failed to keep accurate records, a matter the government's own Intelligence and Security Committee found "unacceptable" in a March 2015 report included among the court documents.

Calling the authorities to account now will not necessarily improve things in the future. Earlier this month, the U.K. government presented a draft law, the Investigatory Powers Bill, which if approved without amendment will give the intelligence services freedom to hack almost anyone.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?