Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dangerous Internet Surveillance

Exclusive Western and Chinese high-tech companies are competing aggressively to sell, install and manage intrusive and dangerous internet surveillance and communications control equipment for the world’s most brutal regimes, a six-month investigation has found.

During 2011, investigators from Privacy International, a London-based NGO, infiltrated a circuit of closed international surveillance equipment marketing conferences, obtaining private briefings and technical product specifications from contract-hungry sales executives. The group will publish its data and document haul on the net today, in conjunction with other campaigners.

The scale and audacity of the proposals in many of the companies’ documents and hand-out
DVDs is breathtaking. They describe and offer for unrestricted sale technologies which were in existence a decade ago, but which were held in utmost secrecy by major intelligence agencies such as the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ.

Over 150 international companies now trading in this sector have been identified during the research. The majority of them did not exist or were not offering electronic surveillance products, even in the early noughties.

Companies exhibiting at the shows now openly offer to target and break specific international commercial communications satellites, including Thuraya (covering the Middle East), Iridium satellite phones, and Marlink’s VSAT. Commercial satellite intercept was previously the almost exclusive turf of GCHQ and NSA’s Echelon satellite interception network.

Other companies offer routinely to install malware on phones and PCs, to break SSL encryption on web connections and A5 crypto on mobile phones, or to break into high-capacity optical fibre more