New Snowden Documents Show GCHQ Paying Cable & Wireless for Access

A new story based on the Snowden documents and published in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung shows how the GCHQ worked with Cable & Wireless—acquired by Vodafone in 2012—to eavesdrop on Internet and telecommunications traffic. New documents on the page, and here.

Ars Technica article. Slashdot thread.

Posted on November 26, 2014 at 1:29 PM15 Comments


cheese_steak November 26, 2014 2:42 PM

The best part is the slow drip of controversy is doing much greater damage to the “We’re keeping you safe.” message.

Interesting comment about the scale of spying at BT and BBC World Services buried in that thread.

When the EFF’s story broke about room 641A in 2006, everything that has followed after including the Snowden disclosures were a non-event for me. An optical splitter on the fibre leaving the country is all you really need to know to assume everyone using anything operating over the Internet is being spied upon.

Anura November 26, 2014 5:03 PM

I suspected this was the case. Companies sell your information, why wouldn’t agencies be able to purchase it? No warrant necessary if the companies voluntarily give it away. This is one of the main reasons I dislike big data by corporations, because if there is a profit to be made, they won’t care who they sell it to. The facebook privacy policy, last I checked, basically gives them the right to give or sell everything to the government without a warrant.

Bob S. November 26, 2014 5:52 PM

According to SZ International, “between june 2008 until at least february 2012 … a GCHQ employee worked full-time within Cable & Wireless”. I think there is a lot of that going around, sometimes known, sometimes not to the company: double agents.

Also note C&W/Vodafone was paid many millions of dollars for their loyal and ever so quiet cooperation. I think there’s a lot of that going around too.

Meanwhile, what’s to stop the Chinese, Russians, Israelis, Indians, Botasowans et al ad infinitum from doing likewise?

On the other side of the coin, I have read only a relatively small minority of people know or care about any of this. A even smaller percentage are taking any kind of precautions at all, hoping to be just another zebra in the herd of zebras. The part they aren’t getting is: zebras are food to predators.

Thoth November 27, 2014 3:56 AM

Public networks or most networks were never made suitable to protect privacy in any form. Same goes for services where the currency of the internet is about breaking privacy and knowing everyone (quote @Bruce Schneier).

Once a digital object is created, it is sealed in stone (kind of).

There are cases where you become part of someone else photo, video, audio amd so on. It is kind of inevitable that advanced technologies are laid into the hands of people making very bad decisions.

Privacy is hard in this case.

Security is a necessity to ensure privacy by making authorised people do what they are authorized to do but when it comes to debates like these, there are always idiots or powerful and also selfish ones who feel that security should be not/lesser subset of security and this promotes the notion that security should be escrowed or weakened and an attempt to dosengage or distort the strong relationship between strong security and strong privacy by the greedy and powerful to influence the uneducated public.

Thus, proper education is one of the first steps and also proper demonstration on tje relationship between security and privacy is needed. We have many good defensive designs. How about introducing some offensive designs to show how easy it ia to screw up ?

Thoth November 27, 2014 4:00 AM

What we additionally need ia not just theories on Security design but practical, do-able steps, examples and designs. I would strongly encourage the open release of secure design plain PCB boards with just the copper and silicon as the first steps so that it can be exported without export control and also it cam be DIY-ed.

thevoid November 27, 2014 7:33 AM


end of history indeed… what we hear on/in the news is the ‘first draft of
history’ supposedly, but we know wildly inaccurate. oftentimes we have to
wait 50 years before we really know the reasons for decisions made by
governments, but we could get that information because records were kept..
the idea that essential documents, memos, etc that are the foundation of all
historical scholarship can now be eliminated so easily…

keiner November 27, 2014 10:46 AM

The moves we see, from NSA over Ukraine to shooting teenagers and erasing history are so BOLD, that even 1984 looks so for beginners.

The last taboo: soylent green, but who knows….

Fellwock November 27, 2014 2:27 PM

One result of the slow drip of controversy: a reminder of the laws the US government tries to hide from its citizens. Sponsorship of the resolution is an incomplete but indicative roster of the developed-country governments that NSA has failed to corrupt – namely, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Uruguay.

Nick P November 27, 2014 4:29 PM

@ Fellwock

Several countries on that list are SIGINT partners per Snowden leaks. So it might not mean what you think it means.

Dirk Praet November 27, 2014 5:54 PM

From the article: “A Vodafone spokesperson denied the allegation, stating it does not “make a profit from law enforcement assistance”, without providing details about payments or how costs are determined.

I wonder if that same spokesperson would repeat that statement in front of a commission or in a court of law. Larry Speakes and Larry lies. But wich in its turn begs an interesting question: to which extent would any of the Snowden documents be admissible in court as they were illegally obtained ?

Fellwock November 27, 2014 9:57 PM

Yes, Germany’s a good example. The US grafted BND onto it for colonial administration purposes, but it didn’t take perfectly. Other organs of government act to curb the spying. There’s nothing like American-style legislative groveling, and no formal exemption from independent judicial review. The culture’s also different than the passive US culture of compliance, thanks in large part to the Ossies and their experience with the Stasi. Despite decades of bribery hand-over-fist, Der Spiegel is a high-profile outlet for Glen Greenwald.

NSA is trying to herd chickens. Their efforts are helping to splinter what remains of the US bloc. It would take a war to repair the damage NSA has done. The US is working on that, of course. Between the undocumented gates in the Chinese chips and the Khibiny ECM, that ought to be funny as shit.

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