According to documents released by Snowden on NSA activities, a secret
British division of GCHQ named Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group
(JTRIG), meant to mount cyber attacks on Britain’s enemies, was
targeting the hacktivists of Anonymous and LulzSec.
The documents reveal that JTRIG launched a “denial of service” (DDOS)
attack (dubbed Rolling Thinder) and other techniques to cut the
communications of 80 percent of the users of Anonymous internet chat
rooms. This is the first known such attack performed by a European
The instrument allegedly used to target hackers had not only interrupted
Anonymous communications however, but also the web communications of
political dissidents who did not engage in any illegal hacking and it
might have also shut down unrelated websites operated by the same
Internet Service Provider (ISP).
In the released documents, a JTRIG official said the unit’s mission
included computer network attacks, disruption, “Active Covert Internet
Operations”, “Covert Technical Operations”, jamming phones, computers
and email accounts. Anonymous chat room actions have resulted, according
the documents, in “charges, arrest, conviction.”
British intelligence actions have clearly infringed the free speech of
innocent people never charged with any crime.
“Targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for
expressing their political beliefs. Some have rallied around the name to
engage in digital civil disobedience, but nothing remotely resembling
terrorism. The majority of those embrace the idea primarily for ordinary
political expression.” said Gabriella Coleman, an anthropology professor
at McGill University and author of an upcoming book about Anonymous.
Coleman believes the UK government has punished a large number of people
for the actions of a few: “Punishing thousands of people, who are
engaging in their democratic right to protest, because a couple people
committed vandalism is … an appalling example of overreacting in order
to squash dissent.”
But NSA and GCHQ have also hacked the computer of Professor Jean-Jacques
Quisquater, a Belgian cryptographer whose work is said to have been used
for card payment systems worldwide. By clicking on a fake Linkedin
invitation his computer was infected with an extremely vicious malware
said to have allowed tracking of the Professor’s work, including
consultancy for various firms.
As a very important figure in the cryptography area, having shared
2013’s RSA Conference Award for Excellence in the Field of Mathematics
for his work on “efficient zero-knowledge authentication schemes”, the
information hacked from his computer could be of a high interest either
for his research or for the advice offered that can provide insights
into real-world operations of cryptosystems or qualities of future schemes.
According to De Standaard, the hack on Quisquater’s computer was
discovered as part of the investigation into an attack on Belgacom
resulted from Snowden’s revelations which continue to bring forth more
and more disturbing spy activities from US and UK governments.
War on Anonymous: British Spies Attacked Hackers, Snowden Docs Show
NSA, GCHQ, accused of hacking Belgian smartcard crypto guru (3.02.2014)