Mobile operators question net snoop plan
Spooks want moon on a stick
Mobile networks are incapable of carrying out the massively increased internet surveillance being demanded by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, MPs and peers heard today, raising further doubts over the technical feasibility of the plans.
Major technical upgrades would be required for mobile broadband providers to even keep basic records of websites visited, said T-Mobile data protection chief Martin Hoskins.
"We've got no legitimate business reason to do that, so we don't," he told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Privacy, which is investigating the government's Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP).
Hoskins explained that mobile broadband uses very few IP addresses to serve many customers, so associating web activity with individuals, as demanded by IMP, is not currently possible. He said T-Mobile's network can serve over 1,000 customers via a single IP address.
Informed sources reported similar figures for rival operators.
Under IMP, however, officials do not just want network operators to collect and store basic communications data. They want to install equipment to allow access to details of who contacts whom, when, where and how via third party communications services, such as Facebook and webmail.
In his evidence, Hoskins echoed the concerns of fixed-line ISPs - reported here - that the technology to carry out such data harvesting does not exist.
"Somehow we would be required to open up proprietory communications protocols," he said. "We're not sure that can be done."
Tim Hayward, the Home Office's director of IMP, said in his evidence that officials are working on the assumption the necessary advances in deep packet inspection (DPI) technology will arrive in "five to 10 years".
"[Today] we have the basis of that technology," he said. "[It] will do some of what we need."
The Group chairman, Conservative Edward Garnier QC, briefly touched on the £2bn estimate the Home Office says it will cost taxpayers to store communications data under IMP over ten years. Hayward said the figure was not a budget and did not offer details of how it was arrived at.
He was joined in support for the government position by Jim Gamble, the CEO of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). In a typically forthright presentation, he said communications data was an essential tool in virtually all CEOP investigations and insisted IMP would "maintain capability" to access it.
Asked by Conservative peer the Earl of Northesk whether there was a danger of function creep inherent in IMP, as observed in the use of surveillance powers by local authorities, Gamble said: "I don't see any evidence of that."
Gamble's intervention was queried in evidence given by Dr Richard Clayton, a Cambridge University security researcher. He said to collect third party communications data from inside traffic streams, DPI equipment would have to be configured often, and remotely. For example, the way email addresses are contained in Hotmail traffic has changed several times, Clayton said.
IMP's surveillance equipment would have to keep up, MPs and peers were told. Such technical work will be done in secret, by "chaps in Cheltenham", Clayton said, suggesting IMP is driven by national security concerns rather than law enforcement agencies such as CEOP.
As we've reported, Cheltenham's GCHQ eavesdropping station is already gearing up to provide such capabilities, under its classified "Mastering the Internet" project. ®
Re: Need to lie better...
Yes, the standard includes the capability to intercept for law enforecement but that means when law enforcement turn up (or fax or phone) with a court order (or without), that the data of the subject can be intercepted and stored. Not that all the data for every single person is stored in the worlds biggest archive for 10 years.
The standard also includes deep packet inspection. This allows identification of the type of service being used (HTTP / VOIP / Streaming audio) and allows the service to be given priority / blocked / billed accordingly. Not that the router can reverse-engineer packets from this weeks version of MSN messenger / Ajax webmail/chat and work out what is going on bofore forwarding the packet to it's destination at a rate of 10 packets a second.
However there are plans afoot to put enough FPGAs into a cabinet to easily do that at 100Gb speeds. (Just think how fast you could win the next RC5 competition with that!)
good on yer t-mob
The consultation document is interesting
A key item seems to ge the Govt wants *all* the data for a user neatly collated so they can collect it, on the off chance they need it. And that will include all the IM and PAYG users.
Does that sound like something a bureacrat would think up to make their life easier?
Note. None of the cases listed as *proving* they need this capability actually show any reason to hold data for mor that a couple of months at most. IE All the activities where the information was wanted happened shortly before the Police or Security Service became involved and the data started to be held or requested.
So either the Govt wants the comms providers to do a *hell* of a lot of extra work and store it for a *long* time afterward (500k warrante issued. c20m mobiles roughly is c2.5%)
They want *all* data to be supplied to them.
Ant the *claim* (No actual cost model for this. Just a figure like the £12bn for the whole IMP they seem to have plucked out of the air.) they will supply c£200m a year to do this, and that will be sufficient.
I believe only being able to charge the government for each subscriber they ask will curb HMG's fetish for this data.
Thumbs down because it's still excessive.