Feeds

Spy chiefs size up net snoop gear

Deep packet inspection bonanza

High performance access to file storage

The security minister has confirmed officials are considering installing technology that could enable on-demand wiretapping of all communications passing over the internet by the intelligence services and law enforcement.

Lord West told Parliament on Monday that civil servants working on the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) were considering how Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) equipment "might support the lawful interception of communications and separately the lawful acquisition of communications data".

It's the first time the government has publicly acknowledged its interest in DPI equipment. A delayed Home Office consultation on IMP is due to be launched "shortly", West said.

The Programme as envisaged by GCHQ and MI6, according to sources, has two aims.

First, spy chiefs want to create a massive central repository of communications traffic data. Such data contains the powerful details of who contacts whom, how, when and where. Most major ISPs and telecoms firms already retain much of this data, but some do not, and many email, VoIP, instant messenging and social networking services retain little.

This in turn would facilitate the second aim of the system, the interception of the content of internet communications. As now, this would require a warrant under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), but each wiretap would be much easier to implement.

West's comments confirm our sources' information that officials are considering a network of DPI probes inside the UK internet and telecoms infrastructure that could fulfil each ambition. The equipment can monitor everything in each data packet passing its location in the network, allowing both "the lawful acquisition of communications data" and the "the lawful interception of communications".

The hardware would be much the same as that Phorm plans to use in its ISP-level targeted advertising system, albeit on a far grander scale. Leaked estimates have put the cost of a ubiquitous DPI network and central database at £12bn. DPI would account for the lion's share of that figure. The two controversial systems have both arisen out of rapid advancements in chip and network technology that have made monitoring IP networks at line speed feasible, however.

That development of surveillance power in the last decade is illustrated by a letter to the editor of The Guardian by then-National Criminal Intelligence Service Director General John Abbott, in 2000.

He wrote: "Conspiracy theorists must not be allowed to get away with the ridiculous notion that law enforcement would or even could monitor all emails. The intelligence agencies have neither the inclination nor the resources, nor the legal ability to monitor the massive amounts of electronic communications that flow through the UK every day.

"It does not happen with letters or telephones and it will not with emails."

Nine years later, the DPI equipment being considered by the government would allow exactly that.

West did not address the thrust of Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller's question yesterday. She asked whether DPI would be used to peer into communications to ascertain identity where it could not be gleaned from the traffic data.

Security experts including the University of Cambridge's Dr Richard Clayton have pointed out that in such cuircumstances, where DPI technology is installed, the line between communications traffic data and the content of the communication could become blurred. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.