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Reliance Undersea Cables Were Hacked By UK Spy Agency GCHQ With Help of NSA!

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Two major undersea cables belonging to Reliance Communications were hacked by General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence company, sometime between 2009 and 2011.

This helped the UK based company to have unauthorized access to data of millions of unsuspecting users, including that belonging to the Indian government. This was revealed as the latest set of documents leaked by Edward Snowden was scanned recently.

Reliance GCHQ NSA

If you are unaware, Snowden was a computer professional who worked as a contractor with the US National Security Agency (NSA) and took advantage of his position as he started leaking confidential classified information in 2013.

The GCHQ was helped in this sensational hack by a private company bought by the Indian telecom major in 2012. 27 other cables which converged in the UK were also hacked along with the Reliance cables, claims Channel 4 from UK and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The hacked cables belonged to the Anil Ambani owned Reliance Telecom group. Their official website claims to be “one of the world’s largest private undersea cable system spanning 67,000 km route.”

Data traffic and internet messages between Asia and Europe and Europe with American continent are carried through these cables. The information thus leaked does not involve ONLY those using a Reliance Telecom connection since their cables carry data belonging to various internet service providers spread over many countries.

The leaked documents reveal GCHQ’s secret pact with Cable & Wireless to ‘use its facility in Skewjack Farm in southwest England to hack into the 29 undersea cables’.

The entire operation was codenamed “Penning Alpha” and the network was run jointly by the GCHQ and the NSA. The operation has been named as NSA’s fourth largest information collecting exercise ever across the internet.

The recently leaked documents also show how the GCHQ used software called the ‘XKeyscore’ to pull the data out and intercept it. The technology used for filtering the information being shared across these cables came from Narus, a subsidiary of Boeing.

Narus was capable of pulling out chunks of information being relayed across these cables. Some of that also included email addresses, phone numbers and IP addresses.

The official Vodafone spokesperson from UK, Ben Padovan, however rubbished these claims. He mentioned that Cable and Wireless was not owned or controlled by the Vodafone till 2012 and that they had clearly checked the antecedents of the company and its credentials before acquiring it.

Reliance communications refused to comment on the matter when contacted.

The news of this sensational hack has once again raised serious concern about the confidentiality and safety of data being shared across the internet. There is little unsuspecting citizens can do when the cables meant to relay their information get hacked.

The gravity of the situation can well be imagined from the fact the even highly sensitive government data being shared across these cables was not spared.

When powerful agencies like NSA are behind the hackers, can we hope to see the guilty being punished?

  1. […] major undersea cables belonging to Reliance Communications were hacked by General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence company, sometime between 2009 and […]

  2. a t says

    Doesn’t seem to be related to this blackout in India, which is still a mystery:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_submarine_cable_disruption

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