Will GCHQ furtle this El Reg readers' poll? Team Snowden suggests: Yes
Leaked wiki boasts of mischief-making, propaganda-spreading toolkit
Poll UK eavesdropping nerve center GCHQ has developed tools to manipulate online polls, ramp up page views for articles, and obtain private photos on Facebook. That's according to Glenn Greenwald's latest trawling of documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
The surveillance agency can also, we're told, arrange calls between two selected phones, sorta like a Chatroulette for spies, and find web videos deemed to be extremist so they can be taken down. User accounts on computers can be nuked at will, and comments favored by the Establishment can be made more prominent on pages, apparently.
This information comes from a STRAP1 COMINT document, snatched by NSA whistleblower Snowden from GCHQ's internal wiki, it seems.
It all should be no surprise to anyone who remembers the disclosures in February about GCHQ's Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), whose aim is to "deny, disrupt, degrade and deceive" by any means possible. The tools today revealed by Greenwald were built by JTRIG.
It should also be no surprise that a world-class spying organization has a dirty tricks and propaganda-spreading team; GCHQ's stated role is to "protect the UK and its citizens from individuals, groups and countries who wish to do us harm, or damage us financially."
You also don't have to be a well-funded g-man to launch denial-of-service attacks, spam out spoofed email, or flood a website with page views – just some of the other alleged capabilities of JTRIG – but altering online polls is an eyebrow-raiser, mainly because it would be easy to detect. As would ramping up page views on articles, but we can imagine some publishers keeping word of that manipulation to themselves.
So, we're putting today's claims to the test: vote on the following poll to tell GCHQ and the rest of the world what Register readers think of the agency's operations in the year to date. We want you to be as honest as possible – no holds barred. This is a free world, and we should be free to be as negative or as positive as possible about our intelligence community.
"GCHQ does not comment on the accuracy of reports of intelligence operations or capabilities. To do so would give vital information to terrorists, criminals and foreign intelligence services," the agency explains on its handy FAQ, published in the first week of July judging by its entry in archive.org.
"We have access to only a tiny percentage of global communications traffic. Communications cannot be viewed or examined by an analyst other than in strictly controlled circumstances.
"To listen to all phone calls and read all emails would be unjustified and disproportionate, as well as physically impossible."
But it wouldn't be physically impossible to stick a couple of million page views on this story ... right, chaps? Thanks in advance. ®
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