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October 21, 2015

Spies to get major new powers to hack devices

News: Legislation is on the way to give spooks the power to hack into devices.

By Charlotte Henry

Britain’s spies may be in line to get major new snooping powers to help them in the fight against terrorism.

MI5, MI6, and GCHQ have become increasingly concerned that they cannot read intercepted information due to encryption. Last month MI5 chief Andrew Parker complained that encryption was disrupting spying.

The agencies want powers to allow them to hack and take control of devices, for example using a smarthphone’s camera to photograph a suspect, or use the microphones to listen in on conversations.

According to the report in the Times, the new powers are expected to be part of an investigatory powers bill, to be brought before MPs in the coming weeks, and aim to put government snooping on a surer legal footing.

Peter Sommer, a digital evidence expert said to the Times: "Increasingly, [intelligence agents] can’t read communications sent over the internet because of encryption, so their ability to get information from interception is rapidly diminishing. The best way around this is to get inside someone’s computer. "

Independent review of terrorism David Anderson has said that "many are of the view that there are other [methods of hacking] which are so intrusive that they would require exceptional safeguards for their use to be legal".

A Home Office spokesperson confirmed new plans where in the pipeline, saying: "The Government will publish a draft Investigatory Powers Bill in the coming weeks for pre-legislative scrutiny. It will update the legal framework governing the use of investigatory powers to ensure law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need, subject to strong safeguards and robust, independent oversight.

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"The draft Bill will build on the recommendations made by three independent reviews undertaken by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the Royal United Services Institute, and David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation."

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