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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power