Feeds

Rush job MI5 security alert service wide open to snoopers

Shambolic service violates user privacy, Spyblog warns

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

MI5 new e-mail alert service sends web subscription forms to the US without encryption, according to an investigation by Spyblog.

The service, launched by MI5 on Tuesday, is designed to allow subscribers to receive email notification of changing national security threat levels by email. This information is already available on MI5's website for anyone who cares to look.

Worse than being of limited value, Spyblog discovered data submitted to the form is sent to US email marketing and tracking firms without the informed consent of subscribers, evidence of either incompetence or "indifference to the privacy and security of the general public". The privacy campaign website described the heavily promoted service as a "rush job" and a "shambles".

"Astonishingly, MI5, the Security Service, part of whose remit is supposed to be giving protection advice against electronic attacks over the internet, is sending all our personal details (forename, surname and email address) unencrypted to commercial third party e-mail marketing and tracking companies which physically and legally in the jurisdiction of the United States of America, and is even not bothering to make use of the SSL / TLS encrypted web forms and processing scripts which are already available to them," Spyblog rants.

Spyblog looked at the source code of the sign up page and discovered that the web form processing the scripts (http://pmv2.co.uk/bin/listctrl) uses no SSL or TLS encryption and is not even on the MI5 web server. MI5 have outsourced the email subscription process to a third party commercial direct email company, UK-based Mailtrack. This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing but the server involved in processing these forms is located in the US, hosted by Level 3 in California. The back-end email list marketing software used in the service is provided by another US firm WhatCounts.com.

Spyblog concludes that the set-up of the system means that privacy assurances given on the sign-up form, and promises of adherence to the Data Protection Act 1998, are invalid. "Any ISP or telecomms network administrators, or the Governments of the USA or perhaps also the Canada, can snoop on this MI5 e-mail subscription traffic with impunity," Spyblog reports.

"We will not be surprised if the entire list of MI5 e-mail list subscribers is stolen in transit or by obtained by unauthorised access, perhaps by an existing customer or employee of Mailtrack, Level 3, or WhatCounts".

Transactions processed by the list are "outside of the direct control and protection of the UK Government" and may even be the legal property of these US Companies, Spyblog adds.

Since MI5 uses standard SSL protections elsewhere, Spyblog concludes that system has been set up as rush job. "The MI5 website handles its own SSL / TLS encrypted web forms already, so they know exactly what they should be doing," it notes.

Spyblog's comprehensive analysis of the shortcomings of the service can be found here. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.