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UK Intelligence Agency GCHQ Harvested Data From Undersea Internet Cables

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Internet users will likely know that there are undersea cables which connect all continents to one another. Since a lot of internet traffic flows through these cables, they are a target for spying practices. GCHQ, a UK intelligence agency, tapped into these data feeds through a surveillance project code-named Tempora. This was all made possible thanks to the help of New Zealand firm Endace.

While most people worry about their device security, or how their ISPs may invade their privacy, it looks like there is a much bigger problem. By directly tapping into the undersea cables carrying internet traffic, GCHQ has gathered significant amounts of data. Allegedly, the intelligence agency paid Endace to create these “data capture systems”.

The name Endace may ring a bell for some people, as they have been in business for quite some time now. This company specializes in capturing all network traffic, which is then analyzed and sent to wherever it needs to go. Companies see the value of this business model, as it helps them protect their networks against attacks.

To be more precise, Endace is on the “payroll” of a lot of the world’s major companies. Global telcos, government departments, commercial banks, exchanges, and Fortune 500 organizations all make use of their services. However, ever since Edward Snowden leaked sensitive information, that household name has gotten a bit of a sour taste to it.


From the information we received, it appears Endace and GCHQ have been in cahoots since early 2010. There are emails, documents, project updates, financial reports, and a slew of other information which have been made publicly available not too long ago. As one would come to expect from such a partnership, the NZ company had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the intelligence agency.

User privacy has been a topic of substantial debate over the past few years. Knowing that a UK intelligence agency tapped into undersea cables and obtained all of the information for who knows how long, is a worrisome thought. It also appears that Endace created a custom “enhancement” for the GCHQ worth roughly 245,000 GBP.

That is, however, not the only type of spying GCHQ is responsible for. The intelligence agency claims to hold the encryption key for a “well-known” chat program, and they would like to decrypt all packets sent on the network. Albeit this revelation dates back to 2013, it is not unlikely that the GCHQ still has backdoor access to this unspecified chat program.

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