GCHQ Has Entire Program For 'Dirty Tricks' Including Honeypots, Using Journalists, Deleting Online Accounts

from the of-course-they-do dept

Remember the story from last year about the NSA using dirty tricks, like spying on the porn habits of non-terrorists and then trying to leak them to discredit those (again, non-terrorist) individuals? Apparently, the UK’s version of the NSA is way ahead of the NSA on that. A new report by Glenn Greenwald and others at NBC, based on Snowden documents, shows that the GCHQ has an entire program dedicated to these kinds of attacks. Now, there is some reasonable argument to be made that this is part of basic espionage protocol, but generally speaking that’s supposed to be the mandate of the actual spy agencies (in the US, that would be the CIA, in the UK MI5 or MI6). When it moves over into organizations like the NSA and GCHQ, which are supposed to be more about merely collecting and analyzing “signals intelligence” rather than “offensive” attacks, it becomes increasingly questionable. And yet, the GCHQ seems positively giddy about its ability to go online and mess with people and companies. For example, a presentation shows that they will mess with people’s social networking accounts, and leak info to friends, colleagues and neighbors:

When it comes to companies, they talk about disrupting business deals and ruining relationships:
As GCHQ says in the presentation, this is all part of the strategy to “destroy, deny, degrade and disrupt” those they wish to target. And some of it involves directly spying on journalists, something that the various intelligence agencies keep claiming they don’t do. Yet, in part of the presentation they explain how they can use a journalist to get to a target:

The 2010 presentation also describes another potential operation that would utilize a technique called “credential harvesting” to select journalists who could be used to spread information. According to intelligence sources, spies considered using electronic snooping to identify non-British journalists who would then be manipulated to feed information to the target of a covert campaign. Apparently, the journalist’s job would provide access to the targeted individual, perhaps for an interview. The documents do not specify whether the journalists would be aware or unaware that they were being used to funnel information.

While some might argue that using journalists is an effective way to go after targets, it automatically puts any investigative journalist in serious danger. Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was famously killed in Pakistan years ago, was accused by his captors of being a spy. GCHQ’s actions make such claims much more credible and put many journalists’ lives in danger. While the report suggests this plan was never actually put into action, just the fact that they’re considering it is immensely troubling.

The report also details using digital equivalents of traditional “honey traps,” — trying to lure people to certain places with the promise of meeting beautiful women. It also talks about a program called “Royal Concierge” which involved pushing specific people to stay in specific hotels in the UK where GCHQ could better spy on them. They’ve even explored the possibility of canceling the reservations of people who pick hotels where GCHQ doesn’t have as much ability to monitor.

Some of what’s described is basic spycraft, but it’s the kind of thing that isn’t supposed to be under the GCHQ’s mandate, and that reasonably has some people concerned.

Eric King, a lawyer who teaches IT law at the London School of Economics and is head of research at Privacy International, a British civil liberties advocacy group, said it was “remarkable” that the British government thought it had the right to hack computers, since none of the U.K.’s intelligence agencies has a “clear lawful authority” to launch their own attacks.

“GCHQ has no clear authority to send a virus or conduct cyber attacks,” said King. “Hacking is one of the most invasive methods of surveillance.” King said British cyber spies had gone on offense with “no legal safeguards” and without any public debate, even though the British government has criticized other nations, like Russia, for allegedly engaging in cyber warfare.

Of course, as we’ve been seeing over and over again over the past year, these agencies don’t seem to much care about whether or not they really have a mandate to do this stuff.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “GCHQ Has Entire Program For 'Dirty Tricks' Including Honeypots, Using Journalists, Deleting Online Accounts”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
74 Comments
weneedhelp - not signed in says:

Re: Re:

What Amerika needs is to be slapped in the face with EVERYTHING. This little trickle effect has no lasting impression and does nothing. You find out a little, you get a little mad, then get over it. SOPA anybody? The “outrage” for that faded away like a bad fart.

Julian A “dumped” everything at once? I think some more research is needed on your part on the subject.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What Amerika needs is to be slapped in the face with EVERYTHING. This little trickle effect has no lasting impression and does nothing. You find out a little, you get a little mad, then get over it.

I think it’s exactly the opposite. Dump 1,000 scandals at once and nobody has the time to look through everything. Dump a scandal this month and everyone’s angry. Drop another one next month and there’s yet more coverage of it. And so on, and so on. Dribbling it out piecemeal is exactly how to keep it in the news and keep people talking about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Child Predators

The NSA and GCHQ are the largest employers of pedophiles and child abusers. Nearly everyone that works at the NSA or GCHQ has multiple pictures and videos of underage kids in compromising situations on their phones, tablets and computers.

The NSA and GCHQ are really just perverts trying to search the world to feed their antisocial and disgusting porn habit.

The NSA and GCHQ are a bunch of Jimmy Savile wannabes.

Anonymous Coward says:

What are they... 12?

Changing people’s Facebook photos, and email their friends pretending to be them? Really? Sounds more like childish pre-teen pranks than anything else. Nevermind the fact that if it’s resource is used by a legitimate target, the minute they pull one of these stunts the target is likely to realize that the resource is compromised and cease using it such that it immediately becomes of virtually no intelligence value.

Anonymous Coward says:

Still technical problems with this. They’re confusing DDoS with DoS, which are two very different things. The supposed syn-flood on the IRC website is nothing like DDoS’s pulled off against banks or large corporations. A targeted syn-flood does not affect untargeted folks, but a DDoS does.

I’ve never heard of ‘Credential Harvesting’ used to mean anything other than obtaining authentication credentials. The slides do not show any relation between the term ‘credential harvesting’ and the meaning it is given in the article.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A targeted syn-flood does not affect untargeted folks, but a DDoS does.

I’m not an expert, but the “distributed” part of a DDoS attack refers to the attacking systems, not the target. It’s a bunch of systems attacking one target, not a bunch of targets being attacked at the same time. Maybe you’re referring to some kind of collateral damage in network traffic between the attackers and victim?

Violated (profile) says:

Criminals, criminals, everywhere.

I remember the days when hacking used to be unlawful where Government officials used to run around putting them in prison.

Well setting up a honey-pot trap to collect people’s personal details is certainly questionable but I will skip over that for now when accessing other people’s social accounts is without question unlawful. The only people allowed to do that would be police officers investigating a crime but only when approved by a Court order.

I can say years ago I used to work as a hacker where I accessed hundreds or even thousands of computer system when that is what hackers do when they explore. I had no doubt though that it was unlawful but I set out to cause no damage which is true beyond some paranoid users reformatting.

I even once saw a complete set of company accounts which were detailed enough to ruin that company in the hands of a hostile rival. I could have made money sure but this was never done when any good hacker would never cause harm.

During those few years I can say I only ever change details in a personal’s social account once. That was only because they used that account to try to make money but their main information was wrote in really bad English. So like some hacker wish fairy I rewrote their information into good English so their income would improve. I heard no complaint when all connected were quite happy.

Well GCHQ have just made the CCC very unhappy when no hacker should ever break into people’s accounts to discredit them or to ruin their company. Beyond the unlawful access it happens to be much more unlawful to cause damage.

It is always interesting to see criminals on both sides of the fence waving at each other. It is just that one side acts more ethical and honest than the other side causing large damage and pretending it is all lawful. If the CCC had GCHQ member details there would be some pain due.

Anonymous Coward says:

What makes anyone think that if the GCHQ is doing this that the NSA isn’t? The GCHQ has pretty much followed the NSA playbook in all this. If they are doing it, so is the NSA.

As more is exposed, we find out just how far off course this whole mess has gone and it is high time to end it. The war is over, the necessity to track everything is over, and it is time to end this nonsense of making sure that anyone that embarrasses them pays a price. This is not the these agencies mandate.

It is way out of hand and has gone on way too long.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Snowden said the GCHQ was actually worse.

…which is nothing new.

Snowden just confirmed what we already knew by paying attention to detais over the years. Starting with NSA back door in Windows 95, and ending on Met megascandals recently.

The problem here lies in mindset. There is a reason we kicked Brits out over this type of stuff (general warrants etc). They never changed back home. Note, that they are the only country in Europe which DO NOT have constitution yet.
Worse, with financial mess they are in, they even open borders wider.

Systems which fail to adjust to changing times tend to fail. Just ask George Washington or Marie Antionette.

Anonymous Coward says:

And this is why you dont give ANYONE this kind of ability, these egotistical fucks, messing and PLAYING around with peoples lives where they have no business belonging, treating people like shit

This is why they cant even be trusted to have internet connection, let alone any spy infrustructure, i would NEVER trust them……its their nature to gain and KEEP power, and absolutely, power corrupts absolutely……that person was’nt just making a passing comment you know, there is a basis for it, and many few are willing to open their minds up to the point of understanding such profound quotes

Just Sayin' says:

Oh noes!

Wikileaks are going to be pissed off that someone leaked the modus operandi to the world. Seriously, replace “company” and “invididual” with “government” and “politician” and you pretty much have their playbook down pat.

Then again, much of it also reads like the trolls here and at torrent freak too. I guess they downloaded the idea rather than coming up with their own!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I See No Issue

‘Criminals and terrorists’

Remember, the law they used to justify harassing, interrogating, and temporarily detaining Greenwald’s partner was one supposedly aimed solely at terrorists, so when they can stretch the definition of ‘terrorist’ to cover the press and those working for them, you should have a problem with this capability.

Gilmore Abigail P says:

Subtle bumps

Anyone else a frequent target of phone calers that never leave a massage, and if you do pick up, they seem startled to be put on the spot? Regularly calling when I’m asleep.
Now, I was quite the nag at the hacking scandal wags, and I’ve always thought the police were covering up for the hackers because they, too, had oodles to hide.

so, arS relentless calls from strangers who have nothing to leave a price for using the free net or am I also paying GCHQ’s price?

Anonymous Coward says:

Anyone ever been call blitzed? The phone won’t stop ringing? Sorry, GCHQ, I just thought that was bad telephony, and I was right! You use our provider to harass us? Naughty, naughty! Wish I could prove it and drag you through court!! Et tu, Coxbox? They were dinging it when I was on Qwest, too.

Sorry I didn’t get scared and shut up, GCHQ, but you need to be less subtle with me. I don’t fold for fairytales, I’m more the Brunhild kinda tale wagger. You should be afraid of my king, the LAW!

Anonymous Coward says:

NSA, FBI, CIA and other 3 letter employees take note:

Just a headsup to all you bottle-weened Federal Fuck-ups out there collecting dirt on everyone for extortion purposes.

You’ve already let the cat out the bag and most of the general public is now aware that they’re being watched by Neo-Nazis in the employ of fascist multinationals – even if you wage-paid assholes haven’t realized this yet.

The main result is that We The People are now working together to find a way to put an end to your freedom, just as you’re working hard to end ours.

The difference here is simple. Up till now, you assholes have been able to wage war on the public without the public knowing who was attacking them.

Now we know who the enemy is and we outnumber your sorry asses about a million to one. It may take some time, but we are coming for you, and we will not be nice.

Does the term, “heads on pikes” ring a bell?

There is one possible saving grace that can pull your ass from the fires to come. Blow the whistle on your employers and go public, and you will be spared. The rest of you… well you have been warned.

John Q. Public

Anonymous Coward says:

This is why every American should be worried

Remember the story from last year about the NSA using dirty tricks, like spying on the porn habits of non-terrorists and then trying to leak them to discredit those (again, non-terrorist) individuals?

This is why everybody should be worried about the unchecked monitoring of all Americans. Don’t think Obama isn’t already using the information he has against Republicans. This is the man who has the IRS target conservative groups (thus trying to rig elections), investigates reporters and lies every time he speaks.

GEMont (profile) says:

picky picky....

From nasch:

This is the man who has the IRS target conservative groups

Was there evidence Obama directed that, or knew about it?

==================================

1. using the information he has against Republicans.
2. has the IRS target conservative groups
3. trying to rig elections
4. investigates reporters
5. lies every time he speaks.

I see you only disagreed with point 2 above.
Can we assume from your response that you agree that points 1,3,4 and 5 are true then??

nasch (profile) says:

Re: picky picky....

Can we assume from your response that you agree that points 1,3,4 and 5 are true then??

1. using the information he has against Republicans.

Well duh, he’s a politician.

3. trying to rig elections

This one was actually part of your claim 2.

4. investigates reporters

Sounds right.

5. lies every time he speaks.

Again – politician.

So… do you have any reading material for number 2?

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: picky picky....

  1. has the IRS target conservative groups

    “So… do you have any reading material for number 2?”

    Do you mean like an email from POTUS claiming he knew all about it or that he personally ordered it done??

    Nope. I’m not on his mailing list.

    But I’m sure if you wait long enough, Snowden will post something incriminating concerning this action, written by the Prez his-self.

    Why? Do you have an email or document that proves he did not participate in, or know about this action??

    If the opposite scenario – the one you seem to desire – is true, and he was oblivious to the actions of the IRS, then he is far more likely what I’ve been saying all along – just another corporate employee – who has no idea what the other branches of government are doing and no control at all over what his employers decide to do in his name.

    What I like to refer to as “The President Select”, or the CEO of Public Relations for Amerika Inc..

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: picky picky....

Do you mean like an email from POTUS claiming he knew all about it or that he personally ordered it done??

More like some kind of news story or some such.

Why?

Because I think I remember him claiming not to know about it beforehand. So if there’s evidence that he did, then that’s interesting.

Do you have an email or document that proves he did not participate in, or know about this action??

No I don’t. Of course, that would be difficult to actually prove.

If the opposite scenario – the one you seem to desire

What makes you say that? I ask for more information about what you said and you think that means I want you to be wrong?

he was oblivious to the actions of the IRS, then he is far more likely what I’ve been saying all along – just another corporate employee – who has no idea what the other branches of government are doing and no control at all over what his employers decide to do in his name.

That seems to be a better fit to me – that he doesn’t have much idea of what the various federal agencies are doing. Think of all the things that have come out on his watch – NSA, IRS, Fast and Furious (partly Bush partly Obama), I’m sure there are others. He seemed to have no idea what was going on. But then maybe he’s just a good actor.

GEMont (profile) says:

A really good actor

My apologies.

I’m unaccustomed to positive responses. ๐Ÿ™‚

Although I do not remember which TechDirt article it was in, I do recall a comment by Obama that he was unaware of something that was done by some branch of government. In response to that comment and the posts that followed, a forum-stuffer demanded we all understand that the President cannot possibly know what every government employee was up to. Naturally, nobody had mentioned at any point that he should, or could be aware of every government “employee”.

Mister Obama is little more than the best man for the job, and the job is to “convince” the American Public that everything is just fine and that there is no need for them to get upset, or involved, and that they should go back to the football game and get a fresh beer.

He was selected for the position of POTUS by the Billioniares Cartel because he’s rich, so his loyalties are to those who rule, and because he’s black and would fool all the blacks into cheering for him, so the results of the election fix could be blamed on them, and because he is an orator of the highest quality and can talk the skin off a snake.

The Republicans knew that they could not convince the public that the vote process wasn’t fixed if they selected one of their own as next POTUS, so they simply ran their selection as a democrat.

If you go back to the days of his first running for office and look at who was funding his campaign, you will find mostly republican donations.

I suspect that after 9/11, the fascists began a simple blackmail campaign to insure that the Democrats would play ball their way. Nothing like receiving night-time pictures in the mail of your kids in their own beds with armed men in masks standing over them, to scare the bejeezus out of any parent.

Obama has literally concluded all of the projects that George Bush Junior and Senior had begun.

In my opinion, he is nothing more than a con-man hired to finish the process of re-writing American laws to suit the multi-national billionaires who currently operate the USA like a business, allowing them to strip America of its wealth in broad daylight with the blessing of the new laws and the courts.

Nothing that has happened in the last 5 years has altered that opinion, but everything that has happened in the last five years has fortified that opinion.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: A really good actor

Well I don’t feel like picking everything apart but a lot of that sounds like wild fantasy. No offense. In particular, if he is the Republicans’ patsy, why are they fighting to block every single thing he’s trying to do? It’s not as though they can secretly work together to pass legislation without anybody finding out about it while publicly looking as though they’re at loggerheads.

GEMont (profile) says:

Smoke and Mirrors

“why are they fighting to block every single thing he’s trying to do?”

Its really simple actually.

First however, note how often their efforts have succeeded in actually blocking anything Obama has proposed.

Now consider for a moment how it would look if the Republican Party DID NOT “appear” to be blocking Obama – a Black Democrat – at every step.

Its called showbiz.

Everything Obama has done may not be in the best interest of all the members of the Republican Party, but it is certainly in the best interest of the corporations that financed Obama’s rise to the throne.

GEMont (profile) says:

The Zillionaire's Club

“It’s not as though they can secretly work together to pass legislation without anybody finding out about it while publicly looking as though they’re at loggerheads.”

And why specifically is that impossible?

All it would take is the simple rule that all such negotiations take place at one of the private millionaires clubs that dot the country-side. Its easier to get into Fort Knox with a bazooka than it is to breach security at one of these places. And if everyone involved in the negotiations will profit from the successful outcome of these plans, who would tell the public??

You should also take into account the propensity of politicians to propose helpful sounding legislation – “for the kids” – that once enacted, can be re-interpreted to provide another means for millionaires to become billionaires.

You can probably now understand why I seldom receive positive responses. ๐Ÿ™‚

nasch (profile) says:

Re: The Zillionaire's Club

And why specifically is that impossible?

While there are secret interpretations of laws, unless you’re claiming there is secret legislation also I think it should be obvious why they can’t pass laws in secret.

You can probably now understand why I seldom receive positive responses. ๐Ÿ™‚

Yes, that is becoming quite clear.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Zillionaire's Club

Please explain how a set of laws that have a separate and different interpretation made in secret by the same lawmakers that created the original laws in the first place, is NOT a set of laws made in secret.

I must have missed something there.

As to it becoming quite clear, you may also notice that my comments are easily ignored. ๐Ÿ™‚

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The Zillionaire's Club

Please explain how a set of laws that have a separate and different interpretation made in secret by the same lawmakers that created the original laws in the first place

Perhaps that’s where you’ve gone wrong. The secret interpretations of laws that we’ve been getting in the past few years have been created by the executive branch, not the legislative. It’s members of the legislative branch that have helped bring that problem to light.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The Zillionaire's Club

You are correct.

I make no distinction between the two.

Since I see no effort by the Legislative Branch of government to do anything about the runaway Executive Branch, I assume they are getting their extra pay from the same source.

Until such time as the Legislative Branch of government decides to actually do their job, I will continue to view them as merely another gang of rich dudes feeding at the public trough while depositing their graft checks in the offshore account for that retirement in Switzerland.

I’m curious however as to what you mean by;

“It’s members of the legislative branch that have helped bring that problem to light.”

I had assumed that the only light being brought to bear on this was from Snowden.

Is the FISA court not a part of the Legislative Branch??

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The Zillionaire's Club

I’m curious however as to what you mean by;

“It’s members of the legislative branch that have helped bring that problem to light.”

A lot of these are about Senator Ron Wyden trying to expose the intelligence agencies: http://www.techdirt.com/search-g.php?q=wyden

Is the FISA court not a part of the Legislative Branch??

It’s part of the judicial branch.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 The Zillionaire's Club

A lot of these are about Senator Ron Wyden trying to expose the intelligence agencies…

According to what I’ve read, Wyden and Udall and perhaps others were actually aware of what was going on behind the scenes, and suspicious of much of what is now being called illegal and unconstitutional activities, but their hands were tied because of the gag order they agreed to when taking the position they hold. Their efforts were extremely limited by the laws which were; and still are, actually protecting the rogue agencies from exposure.

However, I remember nothing about their attempts to expose the NSA criminal activities prior to Snowden’s document leak. If they were indeed attempting to get the agency investigated pre-Snowden, they must have been doing so through standard channels – which as we have all now seen, was a total waste of time and energy, since that route is populated entirely by cover-up specialists, NSA and Surveillance State cheerleaders and repeat deceivers like Feinstein.

It’s part of the judicial branch.

I had not realized that the Judicial Branch was separate from the Legislative Branch.

How many branches of government are there?? Can you list them for me, or post a link that does?

GEMont (profile) says:

Addendum.

Most of the visible Republican Party members are kept in the dark about most of this also, simply to insure that the truly rabid ones who hate blacks and democrats and the poor get to spew their best vitriol without interference. This also insures that every step Obama takes will be met with a wall of irate republicans, truly sincere in their hatred and anger.

This is primarily a corporate program, but includes people from both parties – mostly leaders – as well as numerous members of american and multinational corporations.

It is in effect, a business venture.

GEMont (profile) says:

when the branch breaks

On Wyden:

?Now, we?re all familiar with Congress? most dramatic oversight failure,? said Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy & Technology Project and a legal adviser to Snowden, in a recent debate over Snowden with R. James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. ?And this was in the notorious exchange between Sen. Ron Wyden and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Wyden had asked, did the NSA collect any type of data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans? Clapper?s answer was, ?No, sir.? Now, this brazen falsehood is most often described as Clapper?s lie to Congress, but that?s not what it was. Wyden knew that Clapper was lying. Only we didn?t know. And Congress lacked the courage to correct the record?allowed us to be deceived by the director of national intelligence.?

Written by Chris Hedges

==================================================

Not much that one can do if the law of the land prevents criminals from facing prosecution and prevents investigators from disclosing evidence. Methinks it might be a good idea to also remember that these laws were created by the Legislative Branch with “apparently” the best of intentions, but were in reality designed to protect the guilty. Its simply another “for the children” fake-out.

I don’t think any Branch of the US government is working for the people any more, no matter how much a few individuals appear to be trying to expose the crooks in office.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...