New Eastern Outlook
by Vladimir Platov
The fact that the social networks just like the rest of the Internet have been kept under heavy surveillance by the US and its watchdogs – the NSA, CIA, FBI and a number of other Western intelligence agencies – has been repeatedly stressed by the international media. It’s clear that the United States, in flagrant violation of fundamental human rights, has created a global system of electronic espionage, that focuses on the interception and processing of personal data of users around the world that was obtained by phone tapping, short messages theft, and social network monitoring.
Following in Washington’s steps, its loyal allies are trying to do their best to snatch personal information from their citizens and foreigners by implementing various spyware tools to ensure that no one may keep secrets from the government any longer, no matter how personal they may be.
Thus, recently the UK Surveillance Tribunal, after studying claims of illegal spying activities by local intelligence services against British citizens, stated that the exchange of intercepted private information between US secret services and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) that was carried on for the last 7 years was in direct violation of UK laws, on top of the fact that these activities violated the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, as it was reported by The Guardian, MI-5 and MI-6 illegally tapped private conversations of UK citizens with their lawyers to ensure that authorities would have an upper hand in court, which is absolutely unacceptable according to both national and international standards.
France is also trying to keep up with it’s Anglo-Saxons nneighbors by unleashing a virus codenamed Babar, which had been allowing French secret agencies to keep track of private conversations in such messengers as Skype, Yahoo Messenger and MSN. This virus was named after the famous hero of the French-Canadian animated series Babar the Elephant that had enormous ears. This particular spyware allows French spies to monitor the keyboard input along with recording voice conversations of countless users around the globe.
As it has been announced by two independent researchers – G Data Software AG (a German software company specializing in IT-security) and the American security team CyphortLabs, this spyware was created by Directorate-General for External Security – a French intelligence agency. Initially this virus was discovered back in 2009 by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) when its agents were studying documents that had been provided by Edward Snowden. It turned out that Babar had been created to monitor Iran’s nuclear program, but France decided to put this spyware “to good use” for spying in Algeria, Greece, Spain, Norway, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Turkey and many other countries.
However the Babar spyware is but a new and improved version of Evil Bunny, the virus that French secret services had been using or much longer. To modify this Bunny, French agents invited a number of young and talented hackers to work in the DGSE headquarters, located at Fort de Noisy to the northeast of Paris.
Our rights on the Internet are being assaulted on a daily basis, as the West is increasing its usage of social networks and the Internet in general to obtain private information that could serve its interests. They have been violating the fundamental rights of people around the globe time and time again, while international institutions keep silent about these facts as if they didn’t even exist. But what can countries do in a situation like this? – In this context, China can serve as a perfect example of dealing with Washington’s cunning ways.
When the US State Department closed Hotmail in China for purely political reasons, Beijing was quick to ban MSN services, which granted the country billions of dollars in fines and Washington’s assurances not to use such measures anytime again in the near future. Later on, as Washington persisted, China launched its own “Google” under the brand Baidu and, later on, it created its own YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Which means only one thing – there are ways for soveriegn governments to fight this, but harsh steps are to be taken before that.
Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”