Thursday, July 03, 2014

Challenging the panopticon

Earlier this year we learned that Britain's GCHQ had hacked Belgian telecoms company Belgacom using a man-in-the-middle attack. The attack wasn't an isolated incident, but part of a wider pattern of cyberwarfare carried out by GCHQ. But now, some of GCHQ's possible targets are taking the spies to court:

Internet service providers from around the world are lodging formal complaints against the UK government's monitoring service, GCHQ, alleging it uses malicious software to break into their networks.

The claims from seven organisations based in six countries – Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, the UK, the US and Zimbabwe – will add to international pressure on the government after Edward Snowden's revelations about mass surveillance of the internet by UK and US intelligence agencies.

The claims are being filed with the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), the court in London that assesses complaints about the agencies' activities and misuse of surveillance by government organisations. Most of its hearings are held at least partly in secret.

Unfortunately the secrecy of the proceedings means we have no real way of determining whether this case is heard fairly, or simply fobbed off to protect a spying government. But if they don't win, there will be obvious suspicion of the latter, and increased pressure to shut GCHQ down entirely.