Edward Snowden is a name that has become not only recognizable all over the world, but also respected and trusted. Snowden, a former intelligence contractor for the NSA, recently spoke to Panorama in Moscow, shedding more light on UK’s questionable intelligence gathering practices.
This time, Snowden addressed GCHQ’s secret collection of intercept and snooping tools – code named the “Smurf Suite.” The Smurf Suite, named after the Belgian cartoon, contains a number of tools that are capable of quietly gathering a variety of information from an unsuspecting target’s cell phone.
According to Snowden, the GCHQ is able to access any handset simply by sending an encrypted text message to it. This message arrives quietly and unbeknownst to the user. As soon as the phone receives the message, the GCHQ is then able to use their “smurfs” to effortlessly gather all sorts of intelligence remotely.
For example, Dreamy Smurf is a tool that can turn your phone on or off without you knowing. Nosey Smurf, appropriately named, can enable the microphone in order to listen in to everything that is going on – this can not only occur without your knowledge, but it can also happen even if your phone is turned off, considering the GCHQ can simply use Dreamy Smurf to turn it back on again. Tracker Smurf allows GCHQ to better pinpoint your exact location, this smurf performs much better than typical cell phone tower triangulation.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Smurf Suite also includes a powerful self-protection tool called Paranoid Smurf. This tool is used to mask any activity that the GCHQ participates in on your device, making it nearly impossible to realize that something has gone amiss. Besides these extremely infringing tools, Snowden says that “they can do much more” – like secretly snap photos and access your communications.
While the Smurf Suite, specifically, is used in the U.K. it doesn’t mean that other intelligence agencies are innocent. In fact, Snowden says that the NSA uses very similar technology in their snooping operations. According to leaked documents, it is understood that the NSA has spent something to the tune of one billion dollars on a programme similar to the Smurf Suite – apparently as a result of increased use of smartphones by enemies of the state and terrorists.
In the event of this news, the public has become curious whether or not Mr. Snowden’s claims are factual – however, the government has declined to comment. Besides naturally claiming that it is UK’s policy not to comment on intelligence matters, a government spokesperson said that Snowden has hindered the government’s ability to counter threats to national security.
Whether true or not, Snowden believes that he has acted in the public interest, after all the surveillance was carried out without knowledge or consent of the general public.