Leaked papers allege GCHQ targeted Belgian telecoms company
GCHQ is alleged to have planted software into the systems of Belgium’s largest telecoms company, according to a further leak of secret documents by ex-National Security Agency (NSA) analyst Edward Snowden.
Belgian authorities have announced they are looking into what they describe as “state-sponsored espionage” after the leak of what is said to be an internal GCHQ presentation refers to the intelligence base in Cheltenham targeting Belgacom employees’ systems with ‘malware’ to find information on the company’s infrastructure.
The documents published in Der Spiegel were being closely examined, said Belgian prosecutors.
The documents are said to show that GCHQ was particularly interested in a system called BICS – a joint venture between Belgacom, Swisscom and a South African company MTN, which provides large-scale carrier capacity to telecoms companies around the world, particularly in areas of interest to western intelligence such as Yemen and Syria.
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They indicate the intent was to be able to conduct ‘man in the middle’ attacks against targets using roaming smart phones.
GCHQ said it had a policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.
But a spokesman added: “All GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that its activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight.”
Last week, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the parliamentary oversight body for GCHQ, said the agency had acted legally “in every case”. This was in response to claims the agency had used an NSA programme, Prism, to get round British law.
In a statement to The Independent, the Federal Prosecutors office in Brussels said: “Based on the information currently available, the aim of the hacking seems to be more to gather strategic information and not to commit acts of sabotage or cause economic damage.”