back to article GCHQ: We can't track crims any more thanks to Snowden

The Snowden revelations harmed GCHQ’s ability to monitor the communications of crime lords, leading to some vanishing off the grid and the abandonment of other surveillance operations, sources have told a British newspaper. Intelligence officers claim to be blind to more than a quarter of the actions of the UK’s worst crime …

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Re: How much tracking of crims was being done before?

With approximately 58 million suspects under surveillance in Britain.

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Re: How much tracking of crims was being done before?

You forgot 'in a park, by a lake, feeding the ducks'.

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So before Snowden...

'Drug lords' sent messages in clear text to one another:

'Senor Mendoza, nice to speak with you! Could you send round a ton of cocaine to Milford Haven for next week. Please tell me the name of the boat it's on. Ta.'

I don't think so.

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Re: So before Snowden...

In the same way the guy that break into your house wear's a black and white striped tee-shit and a bag with SWAG written on the side.

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Facepalm

Re: So before Snowden...

Well, there are two ways of looking at this.

They are not been spied on, so it's quite OK to chat about this activity in the open.

They are been spied on, so those spy police types will already be running a decipher so lets just chat about this in the open.

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Re: So before Snowden...

Surely pre-pay phones and fairly innocuous chatter is going to be the best bet here.

Look at the legitimate (i.e. non-obfuscated) chatter going over the web on an average day, facebook,stack overflow, twitter, amazon etc.

How really can you determine "hello mate, pint and same again please" -> "sure, same place ?" -> "yes, bit later - say five?" -> "see you there ;)" relates to some illegal exchange of goods or services.

It's fantasy - the blatant point of all the trawling is to provide an ability to *retrospectively* throw every possible extra charge at someone under arrest to get them to give up, whomever they're associated with.

I'd be willing to bet that the big scale stuff is disguised as company purchases for intangibles (IP payments perhaps) and looks like any other sales ledger unless a forensic accountant gets her hands on the books.

The little stuff is just not hidden.

I seriously doubt a sophisticated infrastructure is required to work out what "got any weed?" -> "how much do you want?" could possibly relate to.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So before Snowden...

What do you think the Reg comments are really about?

Even now someone at GCHQ is probably trying to find out whether Sharepoint is a reference to a drug distribution centre. And perhaps Microsoft is code for a major viagra selling operation.

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Re: So before Snowden...

curses talk sed cat, wait vim, whois top

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Big Brother

Re: So before Snowden...

"I'd be willing to bet that the big scale stuff is disguised as company purchases for intangibles (IP payments perhaps) and looks like any other sales ledger unless a forensic accountant gets her hands on the books."

The correct phrase is non-broker commission.

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Megaphone

Suspected

So what they mean is they can't track *suspected* criminals anymore. Suspected should mean nothing. Anyone could suspect anyone of anything, and say it loudly enough it can become true. I want evidence not presumption and if there's enough evidence of a crime having been committed then it should be trivial to obtain a warrant and poke that under the noses of communications providers.

They overstepped the limits of the legal framework, just like the baddies. And they know it.

Normal law-abiding peons and suspected criminals/transvestites/activists/terrorists/ghosts/aliens/jobsworth civil servants have got themselves their very own technological equivalent of the Wilson Doctrine. Seems only fair to me, even if I don't like the fact that bad people do bad things. Hurrah for normal law-abiding peons and suspected criminals/transvestites/activists/terrorists/ghosts/aliens/jobsworth civil servants everywhere!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wilson Doctrine

Apparently the Wilson Doctrine (spies won't bug MPs) hasn't really been taken seriously for years:

e.g. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/14/spies-flouting-wilson-doctrine-bugging-mps

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Pint

Re: Suspected

So what they mean is they can't track *suspected* criminals anymore. Suspected should mean nothing.

While I agree with the wider point you are making, I think *suspected* just means *not convicted*.

They absolutely should be going after suspected criminals, they should just apply to a judge for a warrant first, so they can convict them and turn them from *suspected* to convicted / or remove them from suspicion.

They overstepped the limits of the legal framework, just like the baddies. And they know it.

No, they flat out broke the law, in an industrialized manner, that's really quite different from a technical breach of process, it's the difference between shoplifting a mars bar and hijacking a confectionery truck.

if there's enough evidence of a crime having been committed then it should be trivial to obtain a warrant and poke that under the noses of communications providers.

Completely agree with you here, I don't object to the mass trawling in principle, but I do think a case *must* be made for each and every person affected, with the requisite paperwork filed with a judge. If that means that some dangerous evil people slip through the net, so be it, it's kind of the deal with being free, freedom doesn't translate to safety.

If that makes mass trawling unworkable, well again, that's the whole being free thing again.

Have a pint

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Re: ... Re: Wilson Doctrine

Apparently the Wilson Doctrine (spies won't bug MPs) hasn't really been taken seriously for years:

e.g. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/14/spies-flouting-wilson-doctrine-bugging-mps

If Secret Intelligence Services and Security Services do not have an embarrassment of overflowing information for leveraging intelligence garnered from every one of Joe Public's representative in the Houses of Parliament and across Westminster and in the City, are they by such a crass self-defeating default, self-proven to be neither secure nor intelligent enough and totally unfit for Future Greater Virtual Games Play Purpose and Realities with Creative CyberIntelAIgent Command and Communicative Computer Control Lead in Media and IT Systems of Operation on Man Management Missions ...... Viably Imaginative Practical Projects in Virtually Perfect Endeavours.

But such a monumental fault and titanic blunder is easily fixed, is it not, with a smart wholesale rejection of such an obvious and easily abused and misused, self-servingly corrupt and contrived idiotic folly, to readily and practically virtually immediately expose a whole host of new ills for speedy supply of Secret Intelligence Services and Security Services remediation. Anything less is an arrant errant affront and ignorant arrogant fraud perpetrated against a nation and blows a huge hole in any notion that the national interest is being servered in any way by all of those involved and is being catastrophically compromised and undermined by the sharing of secrets which are so readily and often abused and seriously serially misused.

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Facebook

Maybe a tangential/peripheral point, but here goes...

I've heard for years Facebook described as the FBI/NSA/GCHQ (take your pick) friend, since it contains such a fantastic wealth of personal information willingly handed over by the data owners themselves. I've always assumed that these snoopers would be monitoring it closely for the specific subject that is their primary purpose these days - terrorism. And yet...

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/25/lee-rigby-murder-internet-firm-could-have-picked-up-killers-message-report-says

If they are capable of reading every email, every post, every chat, every Whatsapp, every video call, and they miss people talking specifically about terrorist murder, what is the point of them?

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Big Brother

Re: Facebook

Information overload. Big Data = big pile o' garbage. In the States, many overlapping intelligence agencies. Given the volume of data the NSA and GCHQ must be swallowing up, it's easier to collect it all and investigate an incident retroactively than stop an attack. These agencies would be in the market for a good AI. In the meantime, they will continue to swallow up everything they can like the vampire squids they are and whine about increased use of encryption while pouring millions into quantum computing research in order to break it.

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FAIL

Tough! GCHQ and the NSA can only blame themselves ...

after all they have abused the pubic long enough.

Besides, who believes anything they say - just a bunch of psychotic liars.

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Joke

Clef'd in twain

[...] the time need to crack communications had effectively trebled over recent months.

I think that's a bass-less statement.

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Anonymous Coward

The clueless will pay for their ignorance

Anyone who believes that Snow boy's illegal disclosure of security ops is a good thing will be thinking much differently soon when their bank account is emptied, their credit cards compromised, their personal identity information is stolen and they end up going through years of headaches trying to sort it all out.

The only ones that needed to be concerned about monitoring of communications by authorities was the crims. Now they get to operate with impunity while your next door neighbor can listen in on your communication any time they desire without you even knowing.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: The clueless will pay for their ignorance

Is this the first time you've decided not to call him "Snow job"? I only ask because I got so bored of reading it I just hit reject on your comments as soon as I saw it.

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Re: The clueless will pay for their ignorance

I thought I detected the fair hand of Mr. Frothy in the downvotes.

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Re: The clueless will pay for their ignorance

"when their bank account is emptied, their credit cards compromised, their personal identity information is stolen and they end up going through years of headaches trying to sort it all out"

Excellent! You only forgot to add "and won't somebody please think of the children!"

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Re: The clueless will pay for their ignorance

Leave off, Sec-ops have sweet fa to do with vulnerable (being charitable here) people giving their details to fraudsters, with companies under-investing in professional architectural assistance with software security.

Snowden just confirmed what most (for a given value of most) thought, as the cost of tapping everybody started to be less than working out who to tap, it became more likely it would happen.

The only ones that needed to be concerned about monitoring of communications by authorities was the crims. It's not about being concerned, it's about living in the kind of society where freedom is not a slogan, some people are rather attached to the idea, so much so they've paid very high prices in service of that idea.

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Joke

Re: The clueless will pay for their ignorance

Is that you Matt?

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@ Moiety

How I laughed!

Mr. Frothy it shall be. Now, and forever more.

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Re: The clueless will pay for their ignorance

"Anyone who believes that Snow boy's illegal disclosure of security ops is a good thing will be thinking much differently soon when their bank account is emptied, their credit cards compromised, their personal identity information is stolen and they end up going through years of headaches trying to sort it all out."

How many times did you bellow how the security services weren't interested in us as individuals? What makes you think they are now interested in helping me secure my data or bank account? Also, this is the sphere of the Stazsi....sorry, the NCA, these days and not GCHQ anyway.

Sloppy MB, very sloppy.

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Re: The clueless will pay for their ignorance

Seeing as we all got put on the hook for about twenty five grand a piece by the powers that be I"m not sure I'm all that worried.

It should also be noted that the filth are shit at dealing with identity theft or having your card skimmed. Thankfully the bank doesn't need a crime number to investigate, or sort out the ledger balance (your bank account isn't your money, it's the banks money which they promise to pay you at some point in the future). Try to get the police to take a report, with evidence, of your card being cloned. Not interested, will add to crime numbers, won't get solved. Worse than reporting a burglary, which at least here in the Netherlands has the police doing door-to-door enquirys.

It was nice to have the cops show up to try and solve a crime, rather than confiscate my lovely plants.

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Facepalm

The big assumption here is that GCHQ were listening to *all* of the "crime lords", and that some of them have now stopped using unencrypted email or phone to communicate and have "disappeared".

How do GCHQ know that there were no "crime bosses" using communication methods that they weren't monitoring?

Personally I know plenty of low level dealers who wouldn't discuss their trade over any electronic communications, so at least one or two of the higher-ups must have been equally sensible.

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Anonymous Coward

"Personally I know plenty of low level dealers who wouldn't discuss their trade over any electronic communications, so at least one or two of the higher-ups must have been equally sensible."

The online dealers I know are quite au fait with the tech. They might not know the exact details of how encryption works, or exactly how TOR does it's stuff, but can use it well enough.

Most of the silk road bust seems to be actual old fashioned undercover work and physical detection of packages, rather than high tech survailing.

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Anonymous Coward

Whiney lil bitches.

Awwww now the law agencies will have to do real work again.. The poor baby's wont have all their stuff handed to them on a silver platter. Besides, if they were doing their jobs in the first place, anyone of the high profile crims they were watching should have already been in jail.. I suppose they just dawdle along and let things happen because its job security.

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Big Brother

Let me edit that for you...

GCHQ: "We can't track everyone any more."

Us: "Thanks to Snowden!"

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Dumb Bad Guys

What GCHQ are saying is it is now more difficult to catch dumb criminals/terrorists. The serious guys would have already taken precautions to avoid data leakage.

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Did they just admit to being incompetent and useless and given the figures or years gone yonder and these days, can we then safely presume that they really never served a tangible purpose?

I think I'm starting to fancy their current 'openness'.

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come on GCHQ, which is it...

just the other day Ms May announced GCHQ would be helping in the fight against pedophiles, now they are saying they have lost all contact with crimes of all colour.

So which is it?

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Re: come on GCHQ, which is it...

Wasn't it GCQ that was turning a blind eye to the child prostitution running out of that boys home in Northern Ireland?

Even if it was being run by the army/special branch/RUC etc then the all-seeing GCHQ must have known about it before Private Eye - otherwise what's the point of them ?

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah, take a hit of this...

what complete and utter horseshite. Only the Torygrass would drink the GCHQ bong water and believe them!

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Meh

They were only...

ever tracking the low hanging fruit anyway. The smart criminals don't get caught, the really smart ones don't get detected. And the really, really rich ones simply buy politicians. I am far from expert in, well anything, to be honest. I am just old and hoping one day to be wise. Still I am smart enough to communicate with someone without state intervention of that communication.

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Thumb Up

Re: They were only...

You Sir , are one of my favourite commentards.

Your few words are well chosen, and well targeted.

Have a thumb!

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Anonymous Coward

Give the buggers something to do

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Paris Hilton

To paraphrase Mandy Rice Davis

"GCHQ: We can't track crims any more thanks to Snowden" - well they would say that, wouldn't they.

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Re: To paraphrase Mandy Rice Davis

You took my reply right out of my fingers.

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FAIL

if that's the case, they're too incompetent to hold the job

I almost said incontinent, but for them, it's one and the same.

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Let me get this straight

So even though the Snowden revelations were supposed to be about stuff that was supposedly being used ONLY against terrorists, it must have been successfulyl used against organized crime and drug lords prior to Snowden? Otherwise revealing it wouldn't have hurt their ability to track those criminals.

So if it was being used against them, why not use it against suspected tax cheats, or someone violating the no-watering ban during a drought? I'm sure they'd say "no, this would only be used for serious crimes that threaten lives" but why should we believe that any more than when we were told the mass surveillance was only done to fight terrorism, or told before that there was no mass surveillance?

Here's why these damn nazis lost the ability to spy on criminals and terrorists, and Google and Apple took away your ability to request their help in decrypting the contents of someone's phone: They can't be trusted not to use it for EVERYTHING. If we did what they want and let it be used to fit all crime, you know damn well the next step would be that corporations can have access to it, to determine who is stealing cable or who has a dog in their hotel room they aren't supposed to have.

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Roo
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Windows

Sure they're whinging about it...

But at the end of day there is absolutely zero evidence to support the idea that joe public's vote can stop them doing whatever they want however they want whenever they want.

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This sounds like FUD

Why would a spy chief go on record to say "we can't spy any more"? That sounds counter-productive. So the obvious answer is that they can and do spy, ok maybe it's a bit harder, but it goes on nevertheless.

Maybe he is saying "now that you know we used to illegally spy on you, we can't do it". Well, you know, touch shit. The law applies to GCHQ as much as it applies to me - if I tried to wire tap GCHQ they would be down on me like a ton of bricks, so why not vice versa (hint: bring it on, I do actually have very little to hide!)

So, in all of this, I am reminded of the late Mandy Rice Davis - "He would say that, wouldn't he"

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Anonymous Coward

Everyone, Everything, Everytime, Everywhere.

Why did Lloyds buy RBS one weekend ?

Tehran strip club

Why did HSBC launder Mexican money

Fast and Furious

Why did S&C get away

Spooks bank

Spooks knew all of this.

They don't work for you, they work for the State (and nice work it is), you just pay for it.

Now go back to sleep and pay your taxes like the good little sheeple they know you are, you wouldn't want them to focus their attentions (and their abilities to produce evidence) on you, would you ?

They cannot see how corrupt they have become because they epitomise the very word.

They do not protect ordinary people

They endanger ordinary people through their actions

They persecute ordinary people for voicing legitimate concerns to protect themselves

They have become Thatchers 'Enemy Within'

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Anonymous Coward

Tough

Shouldn't have picked the publics pockets on the quite really, should you?

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Silver badge
Facepalm

It's clobberin' time.

Ok, so, let's take a little look at the GCHQ claims....

"Intelligence officers claim to be blind to more than a quarter of the actions of the UK’s worst crime gangs following changes by crooks in their communication methods, which spooks attribute to leaks by the former NSA contractor, the Daily Telegraph reports."

So, you knew how they were communicating prior to the Snowdon Revelations, and yet you failed to act on that intelligence? Good...well done. You knew who they were, so no need for mass surveillance to find them then? Excellent. Good job!

Also, only one quarter? Have the rest not changed their methods? Do you know who they are? If you don't know who they are, then it follows you don't know how many there are, in which case how do you know that you've lost one quarter of them? If you DO know who they are, see my points above. Again, no need for mass surveillance is there? Oh, and please turn in your budget because you've clearly been a colossal waste of money if this is the case.

"citing unnamed “senior security officials”.

hmm...I wonder if that would be a certain Home Secretary, as she is now the head of the NCA and associated security services.

"Communication suppliers – historically willing facilitators of wiretapping – are “refusing to hand over evidence on the likes of drug smugglers or fraudsters” because they do not pose a “direct threat to life”

That is, they are *obeying* the law as it stands and not breaching DPA, RIPA or The Communications Act. They wait, as they have been told to, for a warrant to appear. Good job ISPs!

"One unnamed major drug smuggling gang has supposedly been able to operate “unimpeded for the last year” after changing their operations last autumn"

Why haven't you arrested them previously? Lack of evidence? Using them as an asset to find "bigger fish"? Either way, not protecting the public or state much there are you. No need for mass surveillance to find them either. Again.

"We have specific evidence of where key targets have changed their communication behaviour as a direct result of what they have read.”

Ah...if you know what they are reading on the interwebs you *must* have the evidence after all. Why no arrest? What was your budget again?

"“They have moved to more secure forms of communication"

An advert for crims! There are things that GCHQ can't break that is simple enough that 25% of all crims have already figured it out and adopted it! Splendid. Not. So, you're not very *good* at your jobs either...about that budget....

"Law enforcement figures on both sides of the Atlantic have complained that plans by Apple and Google to build improved encryption into smartphones is a gift to criminals, particularly terrorists and paedophiles."

Well, a free market economy and capitalist philosophy providing a product for a nascent market? No one expected that! Ahem. It also appears to be a market you've created GCHQ/NSA. If you'd not been trawling everyone for everything that consumer need might not be so strong.

"“We have techniques that need to be protected,” the source told the Telegraph. “The choice is not to pursue a network and we have decided not to press ahead where there is a possibility of being detected.”

So, you've given up being our stalwart defenders? Again, budget.

GCHQ operations are one part of a broadening network of social control, along with the unaccountable secret police called the NCA and the Home Secretary. They shout TerrorPedos....sorry DRUGGIE TerrorPedos now, and we're all supposed to run to mummy for protection. They think we're pathetic, weak and stupid, but Snowden shows we're not powerless.

More power to him and others that may yet emerge from the shadowed ranks of bullshit.

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Meh

Blame game

I think that Snowden's leaks have only sped up the process of protecting the end user. We would be there sooner or later. Just sooner in this scenario.

Like my dad always said to me: Your mom and I were going to get married, just not on your schedule, but since you were on the way, our schedule was pushed up.

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Silver badge

Unfortunate, but

In the United States, for the NSA to spend time hunting criminals - even ones operating outside the U.S. - would be highly controversial. Its job is to support national security and spy on foreign governments that are hostile to free nations - and terrorists by extension. So, aside from the issue of Snowden, the fact that these statements presuppose that the GCHQ chasing criminals is an entirely legitimate part of its mission is... interesting.

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Gold badge

"Communication suppliers – historically willing facilitators of wiretapping – are “refusing to hand over evidence on the likes of drug smugglers or fraudsters” because they do not pose a “direct threat to life”, Telegraph security editor Tom Whitehead writes."

Yes. And the communications companies are right -- drug smugglers and fraudsters are not a direct threat to life. You want to track drug smugglers and fraudsters? GET A WARRANT.

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