It’s ISPs vs GCHQ in legal showdown (Wired UK)


Seven internet service providers have filed a legal complaint
calling for GCHQ to stop using communications infrastructure to
unlawfully spy on people’s private communications.

GreenNet (UK), Greenhost (Netherlands), Riseup (US), Mango
(Zimbabwe), Jinbonet (Korea), May First/People Link (US) and the
Chaos Computer Club (Germany) — none of which was directly
mentioned in the Snowden files — have teamed up with Privacy
International to take action against GCHQ. Their complaint –
lodged at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal — asserts that GCHQ’s
“attacks” on providers are illegal, destructive and damage the
trust in the security and privacy of the internet.

“These proceedings concern GCHQ’s apparent targeting of internet
and communications service providers in order to compromise and
gain unauthorised access to their network infrastructures in
pursuit of its mass surveillance activities,” says the filing.

The claims are based on reports published in German newspaper
Der Spiegel, which suggest that GCHQ targeted ISPs in
order to carry out “mass and intrusive surveillance”. 

GCHQ (and the NSA) supposedly developed an attack technology
called “Quantum Insert” which appears to target individuals and
then redirect them — without their knowledge — to websites that
plant malware on their computers. Employees at ISPs — such as
Belgacom — were targeted not because they posed a national
security risk but because they were administrators within a
network. By hacking employees, GCHQ gained access to the ISP’s

This is the third case filed by Privacy International in the
wake of revelations about mass surveillance. The first related to mass surveillance programmes including Tempora
and Prism. The second relates to GCHQ unlawfully implanting spyware into computers and mobile

Deputy director of Privacy International Eric King said that the
attacks on providers “undermine the trust we all place on the
internet”. “It completely cripples our confidence in the internet
economy and threatens the rights of all those who use it. These
unlawful activities, run jointly by GCHQ and the NSA, must come to
an end immediately.”

Alfredo López, cofounder of May First/People Link, added that
using the internet for surveillance is “an obscene betrayal of the
reasons for the internet’s creation and development”, while the
Chaos Computer Club’s Jan Girlich said that “we are heading towards
a police state and the only way to stop this is to bring mass
surveillance to an end”.

The case follows the disappointing ruling from last month that stated that the UK
government could legally scrape data relating to British citizens
from Facebook, Google and other services because they constitute
“external communications”. 

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