UK hacked routers to monitor Pakistan communications data: Snowden

Published: October 6, 2015
Edward Snowden. PHOTO: REUTERS

Edward Snowden. PHOTO: REUTERS

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed on Monday the UK government acquired vast amounts of communications data from inside Pakistan by secretly hacking into routers manufactured by the US company, Cisco.

In an interview with BBC’s Panorama programme, the whistleblower said British spies can hack into phones remotely with a simple text message and make audio recordings or take photos without owners knowing.

“They want to own your phone instead of you,” Snowden said, referring to Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) agency.

Read:Snowden ‘trolls’ NSA in first tweet

Snowden claimed that GCHQ used a series of interception tools called “Smurf Suite”, after the blue cartoon characters, The Smurfs.

“Nosey Smurf” enabled spies to switch on a smartphone’s microphone even if the phone was off, he claimed.

Other programmes used by GCHQ were nicknamed “Tracker Smurf” and “Dreamy Smurf”, which allows phones to be switched on and off remotely, Snowden said.

He said the text message sent by GCHQ to gain access to the phone would not be noticed by its owner.

“It’s called an ‘exploit’,” he said.

“When it arrives at your phone it’s hidden from you. It doesn’t display. You paid for it but whoever controls the software owns the phone,” he added.

Read: White House refuses to pardon Snowden, wants him to ‘come home, be judged’

The BBC said the government had declined to comment in line with usual policy on intelligence matters.

Snowden, who has been charged by the US with espionage and theft of government property after leaking documents to the media about digital espionage, has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013.

The British government is planning legislation that would give more powers to intelligence agencies to monitor online activity to investigate crime.

With additional input from BBC.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • nabidad
    Oct 6, 2015 - 2:32PM

    the Strange world.Recommend

  • ABC
    Oct 6, 2015 - 2:40PM

    That’s why I don’t trust the communication technology – everyone, be careful!Recommend

  • BBC
    Oct 6, 2015 - 3:26PM

    @ABC – “That’s why I don’t trust the communication technology – everyone, be careful!”

    Yeah let’s go back to our caves… In line with our 1400 yr old ideology…Recommend

  • pnpuri
    Oct 6, 2015 - 3:34PM

    it is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.Recommend

  • illpopo
    Oct 6, 2015 - 4:22PM

    we have nothing to hide, please proceed!Recommend

  • Jayyed
    Oct 6, 2015 - 9:10PM

    THAT is terrorism for me!!Recommend

  • AHL
    Oct 6, 2015 - 11:44PM

    @BBC it is not about going back to caves. But if someone is being spied possesses important information that if exploited can be a threat to Pakistan’s National security then a protocol should be introduced that no exchange of important information, cryptic or otherwise, should be through electronics or internet. As who knows who has access to our systems.Recommend

  • cbc
    Oct 7, 2015 - 2:05AM

    Well don’t be careful then. Remain being the condescending, judgmental Indian that you are.Recommend

  • Weirdity
    Oct 7, 2015 - 2:12AM

    People are taking this in the wrong way. Pakistan, as a well known and well respected frontline ally in the war on terror, was being protected by the UK through this spying. If they find a plot against the Pakistan government, they would have immediately called General Raheel. See the logic now?Recommend

  • Oct 7, 2015 - 2:46AM

    Only one question to the entire world.. Where is the Privacy Law….?Recommend

  • buba
    Oct 7, 2015 - 4:08AM

    The only surprise in this article is that the UK is responsible rather than the USA. Like it or not most of UK terrorism is associated with Muslims and the majority of them come from Pakistan.Recommend

  • Neutral
    Oct 7, 2015 - 7:27AM

    Wow. Did they find PTCL is charging us too much ? Recommend

  • SEAsian
    Oct 7, 2015 - 8:43AM

    @Saud Ahmed Qureshi:
    Privacy is for responsible individuals and nations. Recommend

  • Amnah
    Jan 15, 2016 - 2:47AM

    Why hasn’t the Pakistani government asked for an official explanation and apology and immediation stop to such hacking and spying?Recommend

  • Jan 16, 2016 - 3:52AM

    There is nothing secret.. on let them enjoy..Recommend

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