back to article Organised crime cops seek international hacking powers

British law enforcement agents are quietly working with European counterparts on changes to national legislation that will allow them to share intelligence gained by hacking into suspects' PCs. Sharon Lemon, director of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency's (SOCA) e-crime unit, told The Register data laws in some EU …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    SOCA said...

    "SOCA said its hacking activities are always within the law."

    And if the hacking is a little outside the law, we'll change the law.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    Do they think they can jack EVERYBODYS box?

    Have the lost their only marble?

  3. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Information is King .... and Questions Provide Answers and Solutions.

    "Lemon refused to be drawn on the specifics of the techniques the agency uses. "As our suspects use ever more sophisticated techniques, so do we," she said."

    A Most Prudent Step in the World of Make Believe.

    Does SOCA Socialise* with Personalities of Interest 42 Determine Core Semantic Intent? ....... with a Virtualised Liaison for Cross Site Scripting in a Novel Joint Adventure and Global Advertisement.

    That is, Create an Absolutely Fabulous CyberIntelAIgents Series for Terrestrial Media Production/Reality Placement.**

    * Converse Directly

    ** ProjectION Production

  4. Bob Hoskins
    Paris Hilton


    Like NHTCU only more incompetent. If that's possible.

    Paris, because she's been remotely penetrated many times.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Warrantless secret searches

    So we're saying that country X can search computers in country Y, without getting a warrant in country Y, and without respecting country Y's laws?

    And if country Y doesn't like it, then they can get stuffed, because they do not elect politicians from country X?

    And anyway this would be done 'covert', i.e. secret, so nobody in country Y would know that country X is hacking their computers?

    I know it's risky being critical of the UK police these days, but this is madness. We don't want that British disease spreading across Europe. People are afraid to be critical of the police in the UK, it's getting so bad.

    I'd prefer we raised British legal protections to European standards, rather than lowered European legal protections to British standards.

  6. Paul

    RE:Warrantless secret searches

    Your living in a land of nonsense. There are alot of things to complain about, but saying there is a fear of being critical of the police in the UK? What utter rubbish. I think you may have read one to many spy thrillers.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    The best solution is... just unplug your PC from the interweb and forget all about it. These people - governments, police forces, etc - will stop at nothing at take away all our rights to any sort of online privacy (if they ever existed in the first place, that is).

    Let's face it: it was always going to end badly. Time to make like a banana and split.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Warrantless secret searches

    "Your living in a land of nonsense. There are alot of things to complain about, but saying there is a fear of being critical of the police in the UK? What utter rubbish. I think you may have read one to many spy thrillers."

    No people are afraid and it's well founded and is common sense.

    Would you be critical of your boss to his face and expect no reprisal? Why do you imagine officers are super human saints different from your boss?

    Bob Quick was a classic example, he saw his wife's address quoted in newspapers and assumed it was a Tory political attack on himself (it wasn't, she's put it on a website). He has the power (and has used it) to issue RIPA requests, arrests without warrant etc. (as he did when he raided the Houses of Parliament and arrested Damien Green MP). There is no judicial process and no 'reality' check on these officers.*

    At no time do they go to a judge and have to make a case, and at no time does a judge tell them to get a grip on reality or protect their targets from abusive policing... they can practically get away with murder.

    So no, the stats say they are misusing their anti-terror and search and arrest powers, and they are clearly human, i.e. 'revenge' is a human trait and they are not immune from it, and the reduction in judicial controls has remove the protection of the courts.

    So keep your head down and your criticisms anonymous.

  9. Peter Fairbrother

    Legality of Police hacking?

    "In the UK, hacking by law enforcement agencies is covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. "

    I'm not sure where hacking (cracking!) fits in under RIPA - it isn't mentioned as such anywhere in the Act. It might come under the general heading of "surveillance", which is defined in a non-exclusive way, but it doesn't seem to be in any of the accepted categories. However I do think the legality of Police hacking has never been debated in Parliament.

    Assuming it's "surveillance", I'm also not sure whether it's "intrusive surveillance" or not,. It would seem to be when the computer is in a home, and if so only a Chief Constable or someone of a similar rank can authorise it. Which isn't likely to happen very often.

  10. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Legality of Police hacking?

    Hi Peter,

    There seems to be some confusion on this point, so I've edited it from the story while I clarify. The 1997 Police Act applies in all cases, and I think RIPA applies if the hack is ongoing - i.e. a trojan than phones back to SOCA on an ongoing basis.

    They seem a bit shy about it though. The 2006 suveillance commissioner's report says: "The powers and duties of the Commissioners in scrutinising, and deciding whether to approve, authorisations under the 1997 [Police] Act and under RIPA or RIP(S)A, are explained in my predecessor’s Annual Report for 2000-2001 and are available from the OSC website."

    Unfortunately, the 2001 report has to be ordered and posted [anyone got a copy?]. Will attempt to clarify this for the next story I do on this subject (should be soonish). Best,

    - Chris

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legality is not the issue

    For a legal system to be just there has to be the same law for all people, if a legal system doesn't has that it is unjust.

    The holocaust was legal under German law, legality doesn't make something right, and is often used to do many injustices.

    Just and fair a legal system has to be, if not, it is a sham.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Human Rights Committee should step in

    Smith and Schäuble are always trying to find ways to remove data protection and judicial protections. They don't have support for this in their own countries and this attempt to get it through the EU policy washing route is just a reacharound. Human Rights committee should slap down this reacharound.

    Coppers are upstanding members of the community.... like bankers.... so how did that removal of checks and balances work out in the banking sector then? Was it a good thing?

    It's pretty bad in the UK that your not even sure if hacking a computer is legal or not. Don't let that crap spread across Europe. One minute its legal to photograph landmarks, the next it isn't and no vote in Parliament when the law changes.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    @Paul, it's getting less and less funny

    "Warrantess", remote secret searches, uber-databases, and gutless and clueless politicians might sound like pulp fiction but they all make a very unpleasant environment for civil liberites. And economic hardship often results in civil unrest which encourages elites to call out the Pinkertons. Note that, the UK is not the only country doing this. Look at what is happening in France and America, the so-called poster-children of liberal democracy. And as pointed out by AC, the holocaust was indeed "legal" and so was Hitler's takeover of the German government. But that was so long ago, right ? Most of the people who can remember those times are long gone. Nor am I surprised to hear that people are afraid to criticize the UK police or their gov't. As a non-brit. I was mildly amused when I first saw one of those UK-taxpayer financed TV ads directed against car-tax evaders. Then I thought about it a little more.

    Everyday, we give our democratically elected govt's more money so they can spy on us better, track us better, control our lives more thoroughly and maybe one day (if we don't resist) stifle any politically-incorrect dissent. In other words, make our societies less and less democratic. Why ?

    So dammit Paul, fly low on the grid or use it to make LOTS of noise. Educate your politicians better by firing the ones that don't make clvil liberites, privacy and data-protection a major component of their platform. Try to do this as much as possible while you can still vote. Otherwise, we could all wake up with a legally elected uber-psychos who have been given unfettered access to all of that personal data. Oooh..... now wait a minute....

    Winston Smith

  14. Anonymous Coward

    On the other hand...

    If it helps to bust serious crime (that term will probably be well defined across nations and at EU level) what harm can it do and what good can it do?

    All in all it is something we need to give some serious thought to otherwise?

    At the other extreme: should one do nothing? Absolutely nothing?

    The initiative, on balance, gets my vote.

  15. amanfromMars Silver badge

    How to Rebuild a Virtual Mess ....... Creation in Easy Steps.


    True freedom comes with the Knowledge that everything known about one can do you no Harm and can always do you Good........ and that is an Admirable and Fearless Champion Role Model in an Information Hungry for Intelligence Exchanging World.

    Keeping Information Secret Automatically Artificially put an Inflationary Price upon IT........ but it is a Real Dumb System for Generating Wealth but Idiot Savant Smart at Assisting the Creation of Deliberately UnPayable Crippling Debt as a Perverse and Subversive WMD.

  16. Columbus

    remote searches

    After sending an email from my server in 2005 to a named person in the government about some information I had come across accidentally ( but most definitely was quite incendiary), I experienced a sustained hack from a British location. Running Snort(amongst other things) on my OSX servers I watched the hack unfold.

    They went through my firewall like it wasn't there, as the firewall logs didn't show much out of the ordinary.

    More entertaining was the standard playbook of windows exploits attempted despite the fact my servers clearly identifying themselves as Apple/BSD. After many hours they were starting more entertaining hacks so I swapped in an empty Honeypot, but they never cracked it (as far as I was aware).

    A couple of days later I was raided by the police on a totally unrelated (& bogus) matter, Whilst I was 'assisting' plod, someone had a good look at my kit, photographs etc and tried to log on.

    I was (naively) trying to get the information to some who would take action (ha ha)

    So the moral of this tale is - The Authorities do whatever they like whether or not they have the legal right, so why do we have the illusion that there are rules?

  17. Richard Kay
    Black Helicopters

    police acts outside normal legal boundaries

    It is recognised in other areas that speeding laws don't apply to a police car in a high speed chase up to the point where this gets so dangerous that the police have to back off. Laws against someone breaking your door down and filling your house with heavies at 5 in the morning don't apply when the police are specifically warranted to do this, but it has to be something sufficiently major they are after for this to be warranted, not a petty shoplifter who can be arrested at a more civilised time with less damage caused.

    I guess the extent to which the Computer Misuse Act (section 3, access unauthorised by the system owner/controller ) can be legitimately waived in similar situations, and the precautions to ensure such powers are not used excessively also need to be clarified.

    Just as having doors, windows and walls strong enough to defeat likely police early morning raids before the occupants of a house are woken by the noise isn't illegal, neither is running a system without zero day exploits known to the police together with strong crypto. The legal problem will arises when under the RIPA the owner of the seized but secure system or media is required by the police to disclose the key and they claim to have forgotten it or refuse to divulge it. This one could end up going all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

  18. Gene Strong

    Licensed to steal.

    And exactly why am I supposed to believe this government hacking

    is a good thing and the govt. can be trusted ?

  19. Richard Kay

    @Gene Strong

    "And exactly why am I supposed to believe this government hacking is a good thing and the govt. can be trusted ?"

    Well it's likely that the democratic process in which you have a vote will have to clarify the powers the police have to do this. I don't think this has occurred so far, but if you want any response you make to such proposals through any consultation they engage in, or by writing to your MP or ministers concerned, to have any influence you should attempt to balance the needs of the police to do their job with the legitimate rights of citizens to prevent police powers being excessive, e.g. by being allowed to do this for all but the most serious of crimes or these powers being extended to local authority dog wardens etc.

    To answer your question more directly, you're not supposed to believe anything, but avoiding participation in the process that decides this, whether you like the outcome or not, is a guaranteed way to ensure that your concerns in the matter won't be part of what comes out of it.

  20. Trevor

    @Richard Kay

    And exactly why should he believe that this "democratic process" you are so fond of hasn't already been coopted or corrupted? Even if the individuals that the "majority" votes for are elected, where are the checks, balances, transparancy and accountability that ensure that the elected officials follow the mandate of the voters, and not the mandate of the lobbiests with the deepest pockets, and the shrewdest law-doging, backhander-dealing lawers?

    And exactly what, short of revolution, are any of us to do about this?

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