How GCHQ and NSA spied on German citizens and global politics

Pierluigi Paganini March 30, 2014

GCHQ infiltrated German firms while NSA obtained a court order to spy on Germany and collected information about the chancellor in a special database.

A new report published by Der Spiegel agency based on the document leaked by Edward Snowden has revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spied on private German companies.

In the last week the NSA was also accused to spy on the Chinese firm Huawei confirming the strategy to hit private companies to acquire information necessary to infiltrate their products for cyber espionage purpose.

This time the Der Spiegel revealed that the agencies targeted employees of top German companies to acquire “in-depth knowledge of key satellite [Internet Protocol] service providers in Germany,”.

Among the top companies in the industry, there are Stellar, which provided telecommunications for government entities, Internet providers and telecommunications, IABG which was contracted by the German Defense and Cetel.

“The document also states that company employees are targets — particularly engineers — saying that they should be detected and “tasked,” intelligence jargon for monitoring. In the case of Stellar, the top secret GCHQ paper includes the names and email addresses of 16 employees, including CEO Christian Steffen. In addition, it also provides a list of the most-important customers and partners. Contacted by SPIEGEL, Stellar CEO Steffen said he had not been aware of any attempts by intelligence services to infiltrate or hack his company. “I am shocked,” reports  Der Spiegel.

The spy center operated jointly by GCHQ with the NSA is located in Bude, a city in the Cornwall region, one of the document reported that the spies have succeeded in infiltrating workers came across four “servers of interest” and were able to create a comprehensive list of customers.

Currently German authorities are reviewing the allegations that the NSA spied on the chancellor Angela Merkel‘s mobile phone and has conducted a large scale surveillance on the communications of German citizens. 

NSA GCHQ German companies

One of the document leaked by Snowden reports a list of high-ranking targets which include Merkel and many other country leaders like presidents of Peru, Somalia, Guatemala and Colombia right up to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“The final name on the list, No. 122, is Yulia Tymoshenko, who was Ukrainian prime minister at the time. The NSA listed the international leaders alphabetically by their first name, with Tymoshenko listed under “Y”. Merkel is listed under “A” as the ninth leader, right behind Malawian President Amadou Toumani Touré, but before Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.”

The secret document confirms the existence of a system code named “Target Knowledge Database” (TKB) which includes the a database of valuable individual targets.

“The searchable sources cited in the document include, among others, the signals intelligence database “Marina,” which contains metadata ingested from sources around the world. The unit also gives special attention to promoting a system for automated name recognition called “Nymrod”.”

There are no information on the types of data managed by intelligence agencies and the NSA refused to comment on the matter, for sure these last case confirm the aggressive SIGINT strategy persecuted by the NSA and its allies.

“However, lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union believe it provides the NSA with permission to access the communications of all German citizens, regardless whether those affected are suspected of having committed an offense or not. Under the FISA Amendments Act, the NSA is permitted to conduct blanket surveillance in foreign countries without any requirement to submit individual cases for review by the court, whose deliberations and rulings are top secret.” 

Everybody is a target, every technology could be exploited by the US Intelligence.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Intelligence, NSA )

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