British intelligence services, including MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, will be given broad new powers to hack your smartphone and computer legally, according to a report in The Times. This comes as part of the governments introduction of a new Investigatory Powers Bill, which grants the intelligence community the legal right to hack into the phones and other devices of British citizens. Obviously, intelligence services have for some time been able (and willing) to hack you - as made abundantly and terrifyingly clear in the recent documentary about Edward Snowden - but its been done on shaky legal ground.
Now, however, theres going to be a robust legal framework in which hackers, sorry intelligence analysts, can read your texts, access your home wifi network, look at your pictures, bug your phone calls, listen to what you're saying via the microphone on your phone, track your location and perform other entirely necessary surveillance. The key difference is that this behaviour will not have to be justified using the Intelligence Services Act of 1994, which was a loose framework at best. Now the spooks have effectively got carte blanche.
Naturally, all of this is being eased through Parliament under the auspices of anti-terror legislation. Terrorism expert David Anderson told The Times that these new powers present a dizzying array of possibilities to the security and intelligence agencies." Weirdly, private citizens now rely on the kind-hearted souls at Google, Apple, Facebook and whoever else we've already handed over most of our privacy. We're also going to be relying a lot more on encryption.
Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have already expressed frustration at the abundance and sophistication of encryption technology, both software and hardware, that people use to keep their private lives private. This trend hasn't gone unnoticed by the tech giants, as Apple and Google have begun introducing strong encryption solutions in new products. From a practical point of view, its pretty difficult to protect yourself fully from state-sponsored snooping.
Using encryption devices for sensitive communications and sharing data is a good start. The best way to ensure your privacy isn't compromised is to minimise the data you store on hackable devices. Commercially sensitive data should always be encrypted. If you wish to fly under the radar, eschewing hackable devices altogether would be a bad shout. Eric King of Privacy International released a statement in which he said: "The Government has been deep in the hacking business for over a decade, yet they have never had the proper legal authority to do so.
It is shameful such actions have been allowed to happen for so long. They have granted themselves incredible powers to break into the devices we hold near and dear, the phones and computers integral to our lives. Whats worse is that without any legitimate legal justification, they think they have the authority to target anyone they wish, no matter if they are suspected of a crime, so long as they are a 'means to an end.'