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NSA, GCHQ Have Been Intercepting In-Flight Mobile Calls For Years (reuters.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: American and British spies have since 2005 been working on intercepting phone calls and data transfers made from aircraft, France's Le Monde newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing documents from former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden. According to the report, also carried by the investigative website The Intercept, Air France was targeted early on in the projects undertaken by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, GCHQ, after the airline conducted a test of phone communication based on the second-generation GSM standard in 2007. That test was done before the ability to use phones aboard aircraft became widespread. "What do the President of Pakistan, a cigar smuggler, an arms dealer, a counterterrorism target, and a combatting proliferation target have in common? They all used their everyday GSM phone during a flight," the reports cited one NSA document from 2010 as saying. In a separate internal document from a year earlier, the NSA reported that 100,000 people had already used their mobile phones in flight as of February 2009, a doubling in the space of two months. According to Le Monde, the NSA attributed the increase to "more planes equipped with in-flight GSM capability, less fear that a plane will crash due to making/receiving a call, not as expensive as people thought." Le Monde and The Intercept also said that, in an internal presentation in 2012, GCHQ had disclosed a program called "Southwinds," which was used to gather all the cellular activity, voice communication, data, metadata and content of calls made on board commercial aircraft.
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NSA, GCHQ Have Been Intercepting In-Flight Mobile Calls For Years

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    • Now I guess we just wonder who else was listening in that hasn't admitted it publicly?

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @08:24PM (#53443905) Journal
      People can now understand the risk of having no anonymity or security on any device globally.
      So to take back privacy use a one time pad not created on the same device.
      Getting any from of anonymity is more tricky but at least privacy can be attempted.
      This is also important for journalists, members of the press. Phoning in a story, update or talking to a colleague or office after meeting a whistleblower, bureaucrat, politician or other contact might not be a very secure part of getting a story ready. Voice prints will ensure any comments get tracked.
      So the wider press, media, journalists now have a better understanding to not use any phone to chat about contacts.
    • Now consider it normal.

    • Now what?

      Intercept NSA/GCHQ communications and/or hack them back? DDoS all their IP ranges? What's good for the goose is good for the gander? Crowd-source the gathering of any identifying data/biometrics of those working for NSA/GCHQ with phone apps and host an open/searchable database online? Why would they stop if there's no cost/push-back?

      They have to come to understand that spying on everyone as they have been will cause a backlash that will seriously impair their ability to do *actual* national-security duties.

      • Intercept NSA/GCHQ communications and/or hack them back?

        That is the best solution so far. We have to gain access to the same tools. Make them feel the same pain. I hope that will happen, but we have to produce something a bit better than tabloid material [theguardian.com]...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @08:01PM (#53443803)

    All 5eyes countries have moved to a more extreme surveillance regime over time.

    Take Theresa May, she was Home Secretary. For quite a while only women would be made Home Secretary, and we didn't know why. Then we found out about the mass surveillance of Britain done in secret and against Parliament wishes and the reason was clear. Online porn. Men surf porn, MPs do too.

    You can't have a boss with a weak spot being spied on by GCHQ. So the Prime Minister always chose a surveillance friendly women in the role of Home Secretary, who wouldn't rock the boat, and wouldn't be vulnerable to the surveillance.

    So David Cameron resigns, and she sort of works her way from the Home Office, into the Prime Ministers office. Did we elect her? No, she just sort of became the PM. None of the major political candidates wanted to stand, I wonder why, they would all know about the surveillance.

    And as PM she passes a new law, legalizing the mass surveillance they were already doing.

    So you can see how GCHQ's mass surveillance of Britain has affected the political makeup of Britain. Just by existing, they've made Britain into an authoritarian state with an unelected leader.

    And the same pattern is happening right across the 5 eyes nations. With leaders increasingly being pro-surveillance, extreme right, in power without a democratic mandate from the voters. Trump is just the latest of these.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Baloney. No one cares if a politician browses porn.
    • Please tell me that quoted NSA "internal document" was not classified. I'm not supposed to read US govt classified information except under specific conditions. Even if it's widely distributed or "public knowledge". Classified means classified. Publishing classified information right in the slashdot story stream where I could read it places me in a difficult position.

    • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      All 5eyes countries have moved to a more extreme surveillance regime over time.

      Take Theresa May, she was Home Secretary. For quite a while only women would be made Home Secretary, and we didn't know why.

      I know why only women were made home secretary; it's because you are delusional. Before Theresa May only one out of the last hundred or so home secretaries was a woman. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        Ironically that one female home secretary before Theresa May was also brought down by the fact her husband was caught buying porn using the MP expenses system. So you're right, there's zero merit in his porn theory.

        Not that I disagree with him that Theresa May is, and is acting like a defacto authoritarian dictator though. The fact she believes something as important as the terms for triggering Brexit shouldn't undergo parliamentary scrutiny is astounding. It's the single biggest change to British statute i

        • Clearly she wants Brexit to happen. If democracy has anything to say about it, it won't. The uninformed/misinformed and much regretted referendum is the closest thing to democratic consent to Brexit that will ever exist, so she has to take that and run with it, and not let the people have any more say in the matter.

          • by Xest ( 935314 )

            I agree, though even with the Theresa May et. al. view of accepting the referendum results there are problems they're glossing over - Leave only won by 1.8%, but it's not clear that they can show all 51.8% prioritise immigration as their reasons for leaving, when prominent Leavers like Daniel Hannan say immigration wasn't the reason he wanted to leave I think it's entirely dishonest to make the case that immigration reform has to become before all else, even if we leave there's no evidence that a majority s

    • Boris give it a rest and stop chasing titty. As much.
  • This is only the current set of programs. The prior set had other names, and were data shared under other agreements.

    And, as always, you won't do anything.

    You never do.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well I will fight the power by turning OFF my cellphone during the flight!

      • Well I will fight the power by turning OFF my cellphone during the flight!

        Lol, it's not really going to help, even when not flying. Always assume any device you didn't design and build yourself is compromised, and even then you have to presume any encryption protocols are compromised if you yourself didn't write them, and the signal intercepts have already occurred.

        All you have going for you is being incredibly boring. The more boring, the better.

  • I have never been able to establish a connection while at cruising altitude. I haven't tried during takeoff or landing though.
    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      I have never been able to establish a connection while at cruising altitude.

      It makes you wonder how anyone could do it from an aircraft in 2001.

      • while at cruising altitude.

        Funny, I didn't know the twin towers were THAT tall.

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          while at cruising altitude.

          Funny, I didn't know the twin towers were THAT tall.

          or that cell towers were that fast.

          • My phone worked fine on Japanese bullet trains, do we have any information on tower hand off at high speeds that isn't from the idiot fringe?
            • Max cell tower range at the low end is 22 miles [google.com] (depends on the technology)
              Cruising speed (probably faster than they were going, but hey, worst case) is ~550mph [google.com]
              Putting it together, we get 2.4 minutes [google.com] for a phone to be connected to a tower.

              Don't know how long a handover takes, but I'll bet its less than 30 seconds. Probably closer to 3-5 seconds, considering that's generally how long it takes the network to stand up a connection for you to make the call in the first place.
            • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

              that isn't from the idiot fringe?

              Thanks for asking. I think the biggest problem with this that there has been no forensic investigation of the facts, evidence and conclusions drawn from them. In any case how this happened is irrelevant compared to the laws put in place to justify the surveillance state we have now. It's our reality, I accept that, but it doesn't mean I don't like to playfully tease out the dogmatic skeptics who are too mentally anemic to challenge their own assumptions for a few lolz.

              My phone worked fine on Japanese bullet trains, do we have any information on tower hand off at high speeds

              First, in the air a cell phone is relat

  • by Patent Lover ( 779809 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @08:57PM (#53444041)
    ZERO.
    • by wiredog ( 43288 )

      Since you seem to be very factually challenged [bbc.com].

      • Since you seem to be very factually challenged [bbc.com].

        You make a very brazen assumption that they found him due to all of this domestic spying the GCHQ and NSA do. The article makes no mention of how he was found and killed. He may have been targeted and killed on accident. If it was a deliberate act, it is most likely that he was found via leaks on the ground. These terrorist organizations almost never use technology like cell phones, email, etc. They're very careful about it. The smart terrorists evade detection for years through these means. Just loo

        • Makes no claims that the NSA was intercepting calls made by those people in the US, nor GCHQ in the UK. Since Air France was targeted they may have been intercepting calls made anywhere in the world.

          This is, by the way, what NSA and GCHQ are supposed to be doing. Intercepting foreign (to the US and UK respectively) communications.

          • Makes no claims that the NSA was intercepting calls made by those people in the US, nor GCHQ in the UK. Since Air France was targeted they may have been intercepting calls made anywhere in the world.

            This is, by the way, what NSA and GCHQ are supposed to be doing. Intercepting foreign (to the US and UK respectively) communications.

            Yes of course that is what those organizations should be doing. But we all know that they no longer restrict themselves to foreign surveillance. This means that if they were doing it against Air France back in 2005, they're now doing it in the US and UK now.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        What involvement did GCHQ have and was domestic spying or spying on calls made from aircraft of use in that case?

  • An astute POTUS with business acumen could use this capability to gather industrial intel and turn a tidy profit for himself !
  • intercepting ALL calls for years.

    The ongoing damage control trying to convince you that you haven't been living in "gilded cage".

    You privacy is invaded for advertising! It's invaded for nation security!
    That is misleading.
    It's invaded so that you can be kept down "where you belong" by people who got fat off easy business and don't have the ability to compete with you if you are able to reach your potential and enter an even playing field.

  • In other news, the NSA and GCHQ have been spying on ROT13'd telnet connections!

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