GCHQ used 'Quantum Insert' technique to set up fake LinkedIn pages and spy on mobile phone giants

 

GCHQ uses doctored websites including those from the business network LinkedIn to secretly install surveillance software on the computers of unwitting target companies and individuals it wants to spy on, the German news magazine Der Spiegel has reported.

The disclosures, which were said to be based on the contents of intelligence data leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, came less than a week after The Independent revealed the existence of a suspected secret GCHQ listening post on the roof of the British embassy in Berlin.

Der Spiegel said that GCHQ, the Government’s surveillance centre based in Cheltenham, used “manipulated copies” of web pages put online by the business network LinkedIn to gain access to the computers of suspects it was targeting. LinkedIn has some 260 million users in more than 200 countries.

GCHQ and the National Security Agency, its US equivalent, were said to have developed a practice codenamed “Quantum Insert” to install spy software on the computers of targets without their knowledge. A LinkedIn spokesman was quoted as saying: “We were never told about this alleged activity and we would never approve of it, irrespective of what purpose it was used for.”

Using Quantum Insert, GCHQ was said to have successfully infiltrated the computers of staff employed by the Belgian telecommunications company, Belgacom. Der Spiegel said the partly state-owned internet provider had been subjected to a major GCHQ “hacking attack”.

The magazine said it also had evidence that GCHQ was striving to improve its monitoring of mobile internet traffic to achieve the same kind of dominance in intelligence gathering that it currently holds over cable internet correspondence through its “Tempora” surveillance programme.

GCHQ was said to be deliberately targeting the computer systems of service companies operating in the international mobile telecommunications sector. One of the infiltrated companies was named as Mach – a concern used by several mobile phone operators to co-ordinate international “roaming” traffic.

“Using Quantum Insert GCHQ attacked the computers of employees and was able to work its way deep into the company’s network,” Der Spiegel wrote.

It quoted a “Top Secret” GCHQ report which claimed the agency had managed to obtain detailed information about the concern’s communications infrastructure, business and personnel.”

A Mach spokesman said that as a result of the disclosures the concern had launched an “ immediate security test”. Der Spiegel said that GCHQ and NSA had also infiltrated the Vienna headquarters of Opec and had managed to bug the computers of nine Opec employees. It said the NSA had carried out surveillance on the office of Opec’s general secretary.

The disclosures follow claims by an Icelandic politician at the weekend that GCHQ spied on Iceland during its 2010 financial meltdown when Britain was trying to retrieve savers’ cash from collapsed banks. Birgitta Jonsdottir said she had been tipped off about the practice by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and warned negotiators not to use web-based email to discuss intentions.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

Primary supply teachers needed in Downham Market

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN Teacher required with immediate...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week