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Bugger-all evidence in bugging reports

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MI5 has foiled an attempt to bug the phone calls and email messages sent by Prince William, according to an exclusive story in today's Daily Express.

The paper reports that officers of the intelligence agency found bugs planted at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland, where the British Prince is due to begin a history of art degree course in September.

Unnamed intelligence sources, quoted by the Daily Express, said the 'snoopers' had set up the devices to use word-recognition triggers which would operate when the Prince was using a phone or computer. The bugs were discovered in a sweep of St Andrews just before Christmas.

Who planted the devices, why they planted the bugs, where bugs were found and how the bugging technology worked are all questions left answered by the report - which goes on to talk about past episodes when the Royals have been bugged (remember the 'Squidgygate tapes?') and threats to their security from Irish terrorists.

However we did enjoy one quote, which the Express obtained from its intelligence mole: "The Prince is known to enjoy using the Internet, and given the advanced state of electronic surveillance equipment, it is perhaps not surprising that attempts should be made to compromise him."

Indeed Trojan horses planted on a PC could conceivably even be used to control Web cams in the Prince's room or traffic could be intercepted with sniffers in order to intercept emails. It's also possible to bug phones with radio-microphones, though physical access might be a problem for would-be buggers - unless they got access to the St Salvatori hall of residence phone switch, of course.

The problem with the report, according to security experts, is that its too vague to provide credible evidence, especially in the face of Buckingham Palace denials, of a bugging plot against the Prince.

"There doesn't seem to be any substance to these reports, which seem pretty far fetched," said Richard Stagg, senior security architect at Information Risk
Management.

Stagg was also puzzled by the suggested use of 'word-recognition' technology, which isn't explained in reports thus far.

Brian Gladman, technical advisor to the Foundation of Information Policy Research, and a former technical director at Nato, said: "There's no great difficulty to put radio transmitters in handset - but they're not difficult to detect.

"Perhaps the story here is that MI5 don't like competition when it comes to snooping on people," he added. ®

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MI5 seeks snappers on the Net
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