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Thanks again to Edward Snowden, we are getting at least some idea of how much privacy we have online. The answer is virtually nothing and the justification is of course one of the following –
- in the national interests
- to combat terrorism
We know most major Governments are heavily involved in intercept web traffic, but it still is sometimes surprising at the actual scale of this. The reality is that most things we do online are relatively insecure, there is virtually no inherent security in most online activities. It’s relatively trivial for security agencies to intercept email for example – here’s a primer on email security. Web traffic is the same, it travels in clear text over shared hubs, switches, routers and cables – at any point it can be siphoned off and copied.
We already know that the majority of internet traffic passing through the UK is logged, recorded and copied. It’s not any real surprise to learn that the UK has a major surveillance station set up in the Middle East. The station was apparently set up by GCHQ under warrant signed by the Foreign Secretary – David Milliband. The authorisation allowed GCHQ to monitor and store data passing through the cables linking up the internet in the Middle East. Quite under what authority the UK Government has to authorise monitoring internet traffic in the middle east is fairly unclear.
As yet no specific details have been released to either the location or the extent of this monitoring station, however it is fairly safe to assume it would be dealing with a large proportion of Middle Eastern internet traffic. In addition this station allegedly has access to the submarine cables which link the major land data centres across the various continents. If this was true the station would have access to the majority of internet traffic exchanged with the West and the Middle East.
Are these stations right? I guess many of us have differing opinions on whether the end justifies the means. There is no doubt though that our own personal privacy is being largely ignored in this electronic secret war. It seems that security agencies will happily set up these stations to monitor us with little regards to any legislation or laws protecting our privacy. Certainly GCHQ does not seem concerned with legislation and laws regarding privacy in other areas.
The reality is that unless you use some sort of external security programs methods like encryption or using a fake IP address then you should assume that everything you do online is going to be logged and recorded. It’s probably going to far to say that your activities will be analysed or even monitored to any great extent purely because of the huge amount of data logged. It is impossible for any security agency to currently analyse all the data that they siphon off from the net. We all have some sort of security by obscurity unless we do something to trigger the interest of a security agency.