UK spies: Nations are hiring cybermercenaries

Jul 10, 2013 by Raphael Satter

A British intelligence report said Wednesday that other nations are hiring hackers to launch attacks against their enemies, a trend it described as particularly worrying.

The warning over cybermercenaries came in an annual published by Britain's Intelligence and Security Committee, a watchdog body of senior lawmakers that oversees Britain's .

Citing testimony from British eavesdropping agency GCHQ, the report described the mercenaries as "skilled cyber professionals undertaking attacks on diverse targets such as and energy companies.

"These groups pose a threat in their own right, but it is the combination of their capability and the objectives of their state backers which makes them of particular concern," it said.

The lawmakers didn't name any specific countries or say how widespread the practice was. The report didn't go into much further detail, but there's long been concern over the proliferation of private companies that profit from developing and distributing offensive software.

The report quoted GCHQ as saying that the electronic threat facing Britain is "at its highest level ever and is expected to rise further still"—a warning that tracks with longstanding trends relating to the growth of cybercrime and increasing official interest in online espionage. As with past reports, lawmakers singled out Russia and China as two countries alleged to have carried out attacks over the Internet.

The report also covered issues surrounding the proliferation of , counterintelligence, and terrorism. It touched on the threat of Islamic radicalism out of Syria, where it said a significant number of British citizens had flocked in order to fight a holy war. It quoted Britain's security services as saying that "individual jihadists in Syria currently represent the most worrying emerging terrorist threat to the UK and the West" and said that there was a risk that the country's stockpile of could fall into the hands of extremists.

Not covered in the partially-redacted report were allegations published by the Guardian newspaper that GCHQ and its U.S. counterpart, the National Security Agency, were engaged in a global surveillance campaign aimed at securing access to as much of the world's communications as technically possible. Some of the revelations raised fears that Britain was swapping data with the United States on its own citizens to get around restrictions on domestic espionage.

A statement accompanying the report said lawmakers were investigating and would publish their findings on the program "as soon and as fully as we are able."

A spokesman for the committee said lawmakers were not immediately available for additional comment.

Explore further: EU case against Google shows need for new publishing models in the information age

More information: The Intelligence and Security Committee: isc.independent.gov.uk/

GCHQ: www.gchq.gov.uk/

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EU, Germany demand answers on UK surveillance

Jun 26, 2013

(AP)—The European Union's justice chief on Wednesday demanded urgent answers from Britain on the nature and extent of an alleged online eavesdropping operation comparable to the U.S. international Internet surveillance ...

Report of British hacking raises hackles abroad

Jun 17, 2013

A newspaper report that British eavesdropping agency GCHQ repeatedly hacked into foreign diplomats' phones and emails has prompted an angry response from traditional rival Russia and provoked demands for ...

Report: UK spies hacked foreign diplomats

Jun 17, 2013

The Guardian newspaper says the British eavesdropping agency GCHQ repeatedly hacked into foreign diplomats' phones and emails when the U.K. hosted international conferences, even going so far as to set up ...

UK: Surveillance devices to monitor Web traffic (Update)

Feb 05, 2013

The U.K. plans to install an unspecified number of spy devices along the country's telecommunications network to monitor Britons' use of overseas services such as Facebook and Twitter, according to a report published Tuesday ...

Brazil expresses concern at report of NSA spying

Jul 07, 2013

Brazil's foreign minister said Sunday his government is worried by a report that the United States has collected data on millions of telephone and email conversations in his country and promised an effort for international ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0