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16 Dez 2020

Crofton Black, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Surveillance companies are using the Channel Islands to track phones around the world

Photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels

Private intelligence companies are using phone networks based in the Channel Islands to enable surveillance operations to be carried out against people around the world, including British and US citizens... Leaked data, documents and interviews with industry insiders who have access to sensitive information suggest that systemic weaknesses in the global telecoms infrastructure, and a particular vulnerability in Jersey and Guernsey, are being exploited by corporate spy businesses.

... The spy companies see phone operators in the Channel Islands as an especially soft route into the UK, according to industry experts, who say the attacks emanating from the islands appear to be targeted at individuals rather than cases of “mass” surveillance.

... Markéta Gregorová, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator on trade legislation for surveillance technology, called for “immediate regulatory, financial and diplomatic costs on companies and rogue jurisdictions” that enabled these practices.

... The investigation has found that private intelligence companies are able to rent access from mobile phone operators and this can then be exploited to allow the tracking of the physical location of users across the world. They are also potentially able to intercept calls and other private data, including bank accounts and emails.

Sure Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands telecoms operators identified in this investigation as a transit point for malicious signals, told the Bureau that it “does not lease access directly or knowingly to organisations for the purposes of locating and tracking individuals or for intercepting communications content”... Jersey Airtel, another operator... said: “We take network and customer security seriously and we do have necessary control measures in place to address and prevent activities that could compromise security.”

...Companies that enable the exploitation of the SS7 system for surveillance operations have typically insisted that the use of their products has been limited to national law enforcement agencies fighting serious crime and terrorism. In fact, as the Bureau’s investigation reveals, in some cases the net seems to have gone significantly wider. In one example, disclosed here for the first time, networks in the Channel Islands were used in an effort to locate Princess Latifa al-Maktoum as she attempted to evade her father, Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai.

... “The Channel Islands cannot allow itself to be used as an offshore global spy centre,” Edin Omanovic, advocacy director at Privacy International, told the Bureau.

... The Bureau’s investigation has confirmed that another Israeli company, Rayzone Group, had leased the Sure Guernsey network access point – technically known as a “global title” – used in connection with the apparent attempted surveillance of Princess Latifa at the time of the operation.

... Rayzone Group denied any role in the operation to capture Latifa al-Maktoum, stating that “any attempt to associate our company with activities that could have been performed by others, is misleading and untrue”. Vered Ashkenazi, the company’s chief business officer, told the Bureau that Rayzone’s “geolocation tools are operated solely by the customers (the end users) and not by us”.

... Ashkenazi declined to respond to a detailed series of questions about the global titles used in the operation. Two industry sources have corroborated Rayzone Group’s rental of the Sure Guernsey global title, +44 7781 001065, that signalled at the yacht captain’s mobile phone.