A joint investigation has expanded upon the 2013 that major telecoms companies, including Vodafone and BT, are working alongside British security services in handing over vast amounts of customer communications data by providing access to their undersea fibre optic cables.
In new Snowden documents, by news outlets including Channel 4 and Süddeutsche Zeitung, a number of references are made to programs in their ‘Mastering the Internet‘ operation including REMEDY and GERONTIC, codenames for BT and Vodafone.
After Vodafone purchased ‘Cable and Wireless’ (who were already working alongside security services) in 2012,they have allegedly continued the practice of scooping up comms data for the governments, as the latest Snowden documents reveal correspondence between Gerontic and the Government Communications Headquarters as late as April 2013. Payment to the company is also mentioned in the documents, leading to the question of how much money flows between the privately owned cables and the government.
“The documents, from whistleblower Edward Snowden, further reinforce his assertion that GCHQ has “probably the most invasive network intercept program anywhere in the world”. Snowden has said that GCHQ is able to collect content and metadata on every piece of internet traffic coming into and out of the UK. Intercontinental fibre-optic cables, which come ashore on the Cornish coast, were tapped by GCHQ with the help of Cable and Wireless.”
Significant evidence also suggests that Gerontic cables have been used to gain access to Indian telecoms company ‘Reliance Communications’ via a cable that passes through the UK.
“Through NIGELLA [another access point owned by C&W] the document suggests GCHQ could also see so-called performance statistics and obtain “weekly automated pulls of flag router monitoring webpages”. Simply put: since GCHQ did not have a partnership with the owner, it hacked its way in and used Cable & Wireless to send data back to the GCHQ processing centre.”
One cable of interest ‘HIBERNIA’, that the Snowden documents reveal British services monitor, runs across the Atlantic – and has ‘landings’ in Coleraine, Dublin and Southport.
A Vodafone spokesperson has denied claims that it works alongside the UK government to provide data.
“Vodafone does not go beyond our legal obligations to collaborate with any security or intelligence agency in any country by opening up our networks to any form of mass observation,” a Vodafone spokesperson said.
“Direct access would be illegal under UK law. If we are presented with a formal warrant from any agency or authority which is appropriately authorised, Vodafone — in common with all other operators — is required in law to provide access to the specific data requested.”
Jason Murdock | |