17 November 2013, 14:31

UK intel agencies monitor hotel booking systems worldwide – reports

UK intel agencies monitor hotel booking systems worldwide – reports

Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence agency uses a special automated system to track diplomats' and officials' travels worldwide.

Documents leaked by former US NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the GCHQ has a top secret program code-named "Royal Concierge" that tracks the hotel bookings of diplomats and official delegations. Once a room is identified, various spying options are put in place such wiretapping the room's telephone and fax machine or putting a spy in a neighboring suite. At least 350 upscale hotels across the world have been thus monitored.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry is planning a "reconciliation" trip to Germany in the wake of a scandal over allegations that Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone was tapped by US intelligence services. 

UK spy agency possibly with help of NSA uses LinkedIn to target global mobile traffic exchange

The UK's intelligence spying agency has been using bogus accounts created on the professional social networking site LinkedIn to target global roaming data exchange companies and spy on the Vienna headquarters of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has implemented a technique known as Quantum Insert, placing its servers in strategic spots where they could intercept and redirect target traffic to a fake website faster than the legitimate service could respond.

The same technique was used earlier this year to inject malware into the systems of Belgian state-owned telecommunications company Belgacom. The data collected by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the surveillance attack emanated from the British GCHQ – and that British intelligence had palmed off spyware on several Belgacom employees.

According to new Snowden's leaks published in the German magazine Der Spiegel, the GCHQ was also targeting networking, maintenance and security personnel of another two companies, Comfone and Mach.

Through the Quantum Insert method, GCHQ has managed to infiltrate the systems of targeted Mach employees and successfully procured detailed knowledge of the company's communications infrastructure, business, and personal information of several important figures.

OPEC was yet another target of the Quantum Insert attack, said to the report. According to a leaked document, in 2010 GCHQ managed to infiltrate the computers of nine OPEC employees. The spying agency succeeded in penetrating the operating space of the OPEC Secretary-General and also managed to spy the on Saudi Arabian OPEC governor.

According to a security expert Bruce Schneier, Quantum Insert attacks are hard for anyone except the NSA to execute, because for that one would need to have a privileged position on the "Internet backbone," reported the Independent.

Last week some details of GCHQ's partnership with the NSA were revealed. UK spy agency was providing the American colleagues with the internal information intercepted from Google and Yahoo's private networks.

A LinkedIn spokesman said that the company was "never told about this alleged activity" and it would "never approve of it, irrespective of what purpose it was used for."

LinkedIn is the largest social networking website for creating and maintaining business contacts. As of June 2013, LinkedIn reports more than 259 million acquired users in more than 200 countries and territories.

UK's GCHQ used Linkedin for spying - press

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine has quoted NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as saying that the UK's Government Communications Headquarters has been using bogus accounts created on the professional social networking site Linkedin, which has over a quarter billion users, to spy on Belgium's state-owned Belgacom telecommunications company and on the Vienna headquarters of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Other media reports say GCHQ and its counterpart agency in France have almost caught up with the American NSA in tapping international phone calls and intercepting communications conducted through major Internet portals.

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has been spying on at least 38 foreign Embassies in the US and intercepting the e-mails and mobile phone calls of 35 foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Answering an international uproar, Barack Obama has issued assurances that surveillance of this kind is a thing of the past.

Read more:

The media is a better keeper of UK spy data than the NSA - Mike Smith

NSA's 'five eyes' – Australia, UK, Canada and New Zealand – collect and share personal data with US

UK spy chiefs defend snooping: 'We protect democracy, Snowden leaks 'damaging'

Heads of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 publicly answer ISC questions

Voice of Russia, Der Spiegel, Interfax, RT, TASS

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