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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Posted by on May 19, 2015.

The GCHQ will now be immune from prosecution from engaging in illegal hacking operations. This state of affairs is now made by possible as a result of amendments made to the Computer Misuse Act 1990. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA) creates a set of offences for those who engaged in activities interfering with the proper functions of computers, namely, gaining unauthorised access to, or modification of computers. Under the CMA hacking operations by law enforcement and intelligence agencies would be unlawful. Hacking operations by intelligence agencies were the subject of legal complaints made by Privacy International against GCHQ before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in 2014. See here and here. Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 amends the 1990 Act to render any hacking operations as being immune from prosecution. The new provisions were passed into law on 3 March this year and came into effect on 3 May. It is a mystery to many that the Government decided against alerting the claimants’ in the IPT complaint. Eric King, Deputy Director of Privacy International, said:

The underhand and undemocratic manner in which the Government is seeking to make lawful GCHQ’s hacking operations is disgraceful. 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.

Incidentally, on 12 May, GCHQ has placed an advertisement, recruiting Computer Network Operations Specialists.

The Serious Crime Bill and Policy Papers can be found here.


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Submitted in: Expert Views, Joseph Saviri, News, News_surveillance, Security | Tags: ,