MI5, MI6 and GCHQ given new rights to spy on your phones and computers | Daily Mail Online
Security services given new rights to spy on your phones and computers: 'Dizzying' range of electronic surveillance equipment set to be made available to MI5, MI6 and GCHQ under new laws

  • Proposals give powers to take control of devices through software flaw
  • Allows them to us computers and phones to listen in to things around
  • Agencies say they need new powers to fight cyber-crime and terrorism
  • Civil liberties campaigners are expected to oppose the new bill

Security agencies could be given a 'dizzying' range of powers with laws aiming to give them the right to take control of phones and computers for surveillance.
MI5, MI6 and GCHQ would be granted a range of electronic surveillance capabilities under the Government's Investigatory Powers Bill, allowing them to legally hack phones, tablets and laptops.

Privacy campaigners have warned against increasing surveillance powers, but the Government and senior intelligence services say they are more important than ever because of electronic crime and the threat from Islamist extremists.

The new laws would give security agencies the power to hack devices, with permission from the Home Secretary, rather than simply intercepting them, which is becoming increasingly difficult.

Online criminals and terrorist can encrypt their communications, which means that when they are intercepted, they may be impossible to interpret.
However, hacking a device allows the hacker to access everything in it, usually via a security flaw in the software.

The difference is that is would allow the hacker to take control of the device, using parts of it such as the speaker or microphone, and accessing data from the source before it is encrypted.

Peter Sommer, a digital evidence expert, told The Times: 'Increasingly, (intelligence agents) can't read communications sent over the internet because of encryption, so their ability to get information from interception is diminishing.

'The best way around this is to get inside someone's computer.'

It comes after US whistleblower Edward Snowden claimed British spies had the ability to turn people's mobile phones off and on and switch on the microphone to listen to what is happening around them.

In February, the Government admitted for the first time that it was using the Intelligence Services Act 1994 to hack people's computers and use them for surveillance

But critics argued the act did not give them the legal right to do access phones and computers, making the intrusion unlawful.

In June, David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, recommended the government introduce a bill that allows them to legally access people's devices for security.

He said that the technique 'presents a dizzying array of possibilities' to security agencies.

The Times
reported the hacking powers outlined in the new Bill, which could be presented next month, were not included in the Communications Data Bill, which was dubbed the 'snoopers' charter' and blocked by the Liberal Democrats in coalition.

The bill was heavily opposed by civil liberties campaigners who raised concerns over spies being allowed to take control of electronic devices, but the new legislation seeks to enshrine that ability as a right in law.

The Home Secretary this week confirmed a form of the Wilson Doctrine, which prevents the interception of politicians' communications except for national security reasons, will also be included in the Bill after a court ruled it had no legal basis.

Any new laws will need to be in place by December 2016 when temporary surveillance powers passed by the coalition government expire, Theresa May told MPs in June.