Man with digital code reflected in sunglasses

Sorry to bang on about it; GCHQ, the government organisation we said had the potential to hack your phone and computer, is on trial for - wait for it - hacking phones and computers. The case, brought by campaign group Privacy International and a coalition of seven Internet service providers, alleges that GCHQ carries out 'persistent' illegal hacking of computers and phones as well as illegal computer network exploitation. The main crux of the case is that their activities were disproportionate.

This activity may involve the copying of private documents, tracking of people's locations via their phones, photographs being accessed, and more, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal heard. This is the first time GCHQ has been brought before the courts. It is also the first time that the organisation has officially admitted that it has carried out computer network exploitation.

Who are the Smurfs?

According to claims made by Edward Snowden in a recent documentary, GCHQ made up sinister Smurf-related codenames for a number of their capabilities. These court proceedings reveal for the first time the nature of those capabilities.

  • Nosey Smurf can turn on and listen via a smartphone's microphone.
  • Dreamy Smurf can remotely switch on smartphones.
  • Tracker Smurf can target the location of a smartphone.
  • Paranoid Smurf can conceal all of the above.

Ben Jaffey of Privacy International said:

'If state authorities are permitted to alter or impair the operation of a computer, the reliability and admissibility of such evidence will be called into question, as will the need to disclose a past CNE operation to the defence.'

Who are the seven Internet Service Providers backing the legal action?

GreenNet These are not-for-profit ethical collective ISP with a heritage stretching back to 1985. Based in London, they exist as a 'cheap way' for environmental activists to communicate. They are geared towards supporting the work of activist organisations. More information

Riseup Networks Another collective, the Seattle-based autonomous collective, exists to aid private computer communications free from oppression and capitalist interference. More information

Mango Email Service This Harare, Zimbabwe-based email provider is very cloak and dagger. They dont have a searchable website, and very little is known about them apart from their involvement in this legal action. More information - is not available.

Jinbonet Jinbo is Korean for 'progressive.' This Korean organisation was founded in 1998 in South Korea and exists to provide web hosting, email, blogs, mailing list services and community services to trade unions, progressive organisations and projects. More information -

Greenhost Founded in 2001 by two young researchers interested in sustainability, Greenhost was established to provide ITC services to projects in the fields of education, culture, journalism and sustainability. They are committed to a free and open Internet. More information -

Media Jumpstart This Ohio-based organisation exists to support the growth and expansion of individuals and organisations with 'entrepreneurial potential.' More information - us

Chaos Computer Club CCC is Europe's largest network of hackers. They've existed for more than 30 years, providing information on surveillance, privacy, freedom of information, data security, hacktivism and more. They are also a lobbying and campaigning organisation.