Ex-GCHQ spymaster uses 'damaging' CIA leak to promote UK surveillance regime

Jason Murdock
Here are the seven cybersecurity startups recruited to work with GCHQ to help it spy better

A former director of UK signals intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has slammed WikiLeaks' latest publication of alleged CIA documents by asserting it could be "deeply damaging" to national security.

Sir David Omand, who was deputy of GCHQ from 1996 to 1997, also took the chance to talk up the new UK Investigatory Powers Bill, or IPBill, despite the law effectively sanctioning the same hacking and "equipment interference" tactics used by the agency's US counterparts.

Trending: Meet RAMBO: The 3D-printed grenade launcher that could shape the future of warfare

"The detail alleged to be in the individual documents could be deeply damaging to our security. It would help others build and deploy such tools," Omand said in response to the 8,000-plus files released this week (7 March) about alleged CIA tools for clandestine hacking.

As reported, WikiLeaks' publication showed that US cyberspies had designed – or purchased – malware and "zero day" vulnerabilities. One, dubbed "Weeping Angel", was reportedly made alongside British intelligence at MI5. Others namechecked GCHQ.

Don't miss: Ex-GCHQ spymaster uses 'damaging' CIA leak to promote UK surveillance regime

Omand said there is "nothing new" about the existence of "equipment interference" tools and instead used the massive leak to promote the UK's latest surveillance regime, which critics have branded a Snoopers' Charter due to the vast spying powers it legitimises.

He noted: "Parliament spent all last year debating and then legislating to allow British agencies to use such methods, under strict regulation and oversight.

Most popular: Star Wars Battlefront 2: All you need to know about PS4, Xbox One and PC shooter sequel

"Whilst WikiLeaks drags the UK into its story, unsurprisingly there is no mention of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 and the steps already taken by parliament to ensure [that] British agencies use such tools responsibly."

GCHQ declined to comment on the alleged CIA leak when contacted by IBTimes UK.

Of course, the catalyst for the majority of disclosures around global surveillance was NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who back in 2013 revealed the massive apparatus used by intelligence agencies to retain communications and internet data of citizens.

The Investigatory Powers Bill provides UK police and spy agencies with enhanced snooping and hacking powers and forces service providers to store – and make available upon request – phone, text and internet browsing records. This data is collected on everyone, in bulk.

On 9 March, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, said he would offer up the so-called 'cyberweapons' to technology firms so they can create patches and fixes. This resulted in a tepid response from web giants, which remain cautious of crossing legal and ethical boundaries.

The CIA has not yet confirmed the authenticity of the leak however in a statement on its website, addressed some key points. It said: "It is CIA's job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defence in protecting this country from enemies abroad. America deserves nothing less.

"The American public should be deeply troubled by any Wikileaks disclosure designed to damage the Intelligence Community's ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries.

"Such disclosures not only jeopardise US personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm."

You may be interested in:

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes