America’s NSA and the British GCHQ have been hyping up the threat from hackers, however a new report based on Edward Snowden’s leaks shows the spy agencies are the two biggest hacking organizations in the world, former MI5 agent Annie Machon told RT.
The US National Security Agency (NSA) and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are supposed to be working to protect national security interests and teaming up with antivirus companies like Kaspersky Lab, Machon said. However, they seem to be doing exactly the opposite and endangering citizens, she added.
RT: We already know how many different online tools the GCHQ and NSA have. So why was it important for them to target antivirus software, what kind of additional access could they get from that?
Annie Machon: It appears from what we’ve seen through the disclosures that if you target antivirus software you get into the core of the computer and you get better access. But it’s a very dangerous game to play I would suggest, because this is the sort of software that is designed to protect banks, to protect our financial interests, it’s designed to protect our health records…For the spies to be going after a company like this is rather strange, I should say. So the NSA and GCHQ are supposed to be there to protect national security interests of the USA and the UK. By doing this they are actually endangering it, weakening the protections that we as citizens, as the consumers of these products need to be assured are safe when we are dealing with our banks, dealing with our help, dealing with buying books on Amazon and etc. It’s a very dangerous road for them to go down.
RT: If the GCHQ is reverse-engineering commercial code – could that be grounds for legal action on behalf of Kaspersky, and do you think that could happen?
AM:One of my senses, this is a sort of revenge attack against this company, because they have exposed some other very nasty state-level spying viruses that have been released into the world, like Stuxnet which was targeted against the Iranian nuclear civilian facilities, like Flame and like Regin which was a virus that infected Belgian telecommunications companies. So this is a company which has exposed a number of nasties that the Western spy agencies have been putting out there in the world. This is sort of smacks of revenge almost. It’s got nothing to do with the national security. It’s got everything to do with trying to make things difficult for those companies who want to expose what the Western spies are getting up to.
RT: What would the NSA and GCHQ’s excuse be on this one? Spying wholesale on people is to prevent terror attacks – but what about software that is supposed to actually protect from threats?
AM: The American media industry, for example, over the last twenty years, has been fighting very strong action against copyright infringement particularly for people who want to pirate music or films etc. over the internet. So for Western intelligence agency to go in and reverse engineer and get to the basics of what a software company is doing is precisely that sort of activity. So I think they’ve laid themselves open to potentially a big copyright case with Kaspersky, because they are going to the root of what this company does, they are hacking it. And they are always going after hackers, after copyright infringement and yet they now seem to be doing it to companies that actually should be on their side.
RT: Kaspersky says its information is very secure – and it does have a huge base of corporate and private clients. Do you think we could see some sort of a class-action suit here, given the kind of information the GCHQ may have possibly had access to?
AM: There is strong likelihood that a lot of Kaspersky’s clients will bring a class action because this is hacking, pure and simple. Now this is supposed to be illegal under the UK law. It is apparently covered by a warrant which is what has been released [on Monday] from the Snowden disclosures. But even so that under international corporate law does not stand because warrants only work in the UK to go after targets which are covered and signed off by the UK ministers. So to go after an international corporation which has international clients gets the UK into very difficult legal waters.
RT: Kaspersky is certainly a popular antivirus program, but far from the only one and other possible target companies were named. Do you think it’s possible that some of these companies may have willingly cooperated with the NSA, in the same way that earlier Snowden leaks suggested may be the case?
AM: One can speculate that other companies might have given stuff away. Particularly some of the more famous US antivirus companies, [but] we don’t know. This is why we need a proper investigation into the disclosures made by Edward Snowden. We need to know what information is in the hands of the spies, what they can access and how that also compromises our online security. We, the people, need to know that, corporations need to know that, governments need to know that. They are always hyping up the threat from hackers from different parts of the planet, and yet it appears the NSA and the GCHQ are two of the biggest hacking organizations out there.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.