The United Kingdom intelligence has a branch of specialized hackers that is suspected to be using other questionable ways to track down its enemies and other enemies of British. This was revelation came out from Edward Snowden recent leaks. The leaks reveal that British intelligence GCHQ is in a fight with Anonymous and one LulzSec hacktivists using DDoS to attack.
According to a classified report which was revealed through the NBC News coverage, the U.K secret agency (GCHQ) is came up with a special team called JTRIG (The Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). This special unit will not be limited by the procedures and regulations of both local and international laws and regulations.
The Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group Unit operates to disturb and deny services, a technique commonly known DDoS, to cyber hackers. The technique also installs malware to the hackers systems and help in the tracking of their real identities, this later helps the GCHQ to intercept and analyze their communications.
This unit is also very secret that it has never been whispered or mentioned except after this revelation. This show the seriousness of this unit and that it must be very important to the point that its name is kept a secret.
In 2012 the US NSA held a conference which was named SIGVED; this was in retaliation to the leaking of the documents that were in possession of the former contractor of NSA, Edward Snowden. The documents contained information on an operation codenamed Rolling Thunder which was essentially an operation targeting Anonymous hacktivists. The method used to target the IRC (Internet Relay Chats) which were used by hacktivists, this method was efficient and effective.
The reason that this revelation was made at this conference arranged by the US National Security Agency is important. This means that both governments were aware of the operations of JTRIG and that the NSA was involved in these undertakings.
The use of DDoS is unlawful in many regimes and for some countries the act is a criminal offence just like in the US and the UK. The computer Misuse Act of UK criminalizes DDoS while in the US the act is criminalized under the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act).
Various analysts have discouraged the use of DDoS attack since the method when used, takes down the entire server. This takedown includes the websites, and other servers that are closely linked with the same ISP (internet service provider).
This implies that when the agency was tracking Anonymous on chat, the effects of that was rendering other websites unusable even if they had no connection to Anonymous.
If these acts are able to be proved, then British would be the first country to face incrimination for cyber attacking. This act is an unlawful act under the international laws and policies.
It is true that the intelligence agency should make all the necessary efforts in pursuing people who break the law, propagate hate and steal property online. However NBC analyst Michael Leiter argued that the agencies should realize that there is a limit to this. He also added that no person should be pursued for expressing himself through speech and writing.
On an interview on NBC, Gabriella Coleman who is a professor of Anthropology at McGills University reiterated that the targeting of Anonymous and hacktivists is the same as going after citizens for the expression of their own political beliefs.
NBC also possessed which contains information that the activities of the special unit are not in any way limited to computer and network operations. The document reveals that JTRIG is also involved in strategizing and attacking, these include Covert operations. It also reveals that the unit is using cyber techniques to sabotage communications made by enemy, initiate both phone and computer jamming and tracking email addresses too.
In the year 2011, the global hacking community also known as Anonymous sprung out and initiated a payback operation which targeted the websites of both the US and UK government websites. These actions were against the prosecution proceedings of Chelsea Manning, he is the person who handed some classified information to the Wikileaks.
The hackers also went after some financial institutions running credit card services and PayPal for ensuring that the donations that were made for the support of Wikileaks are blocked.