The UK government has adapted existing anti-hacking laws to allow British intelligence and security agencies to legally hack and launch cyber attacks, according to campaigners.
Human rights watchdog organisation Privacy International was in the process of launching legal action against the UK government for unlawful spying by use of hacking and cyber attacks until Parliament changed the law in order to protect themselves. The change not only protects existing actions, but also “grants UK law enforcement new leeway to potentially conduct cyber attacks within the UK,” according to Privacy International. While Privacy International still intends to bring a case against the UK government for its actions, it will now be launched on the basis of “hypothetical facts”.
This marks the second time that the UK has rewritten online surveillance laws to protect its interests: back in February, a revised code of practice for GCHQ gave “UK spy agencies sweeping powers to hack targets, including those who are not a threat to national security nor suspected of any crime,” Privacy International said.
“The underhand and undemocratic manner in which the Government is seeking to make lawful GCHQ’s hacking operations is disgraceful,” Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said.
“Hacking is one of the most intrusive surveillance capabilities available to any intelligence agency, and its use and safeguards surrounding it should be the subject of proper debate.”
“Instead, the government is continuing to neither confirm nor deny the existence of a capability it is clear they have, while changing the law under the radar, without proper parliamentary debate.”
Last week, GCHQ began recruiting hackers, seeking those who could engage in “computer network operations against terrorists, criminals and others posing a serious threat to the UK”.
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