Implications to India of Britain’s alleged telecommunications spy base.
The Register reports that new details have emerged of Britain’s covert cyber surveillance program in the Middle East. The report is unconfirmed and there’s really no way to verify the veracity of any of the Register‘s claims, but it does make for interesting reading. The report claims that Britain’s submarine Internet cable surveillance program is based out of Muscat, Oman (at Seeb station). It further claims that “probes” are installed on optical cable networks belonging to two British telecommunications heavyweights — BT and Vodafone, thus allowing snooped data to be accessed by cyber-surveillance personnel in the UK.
According to documents revealed by Edward Snowden to journalists including Glenn Greenwald among others, the intelligence agency annually pays selected companies tens of millions of pounds to run secret teams which install hidden connections which copy customers’ data and messages to the spooks’ processing centres. The GCHQ-contracted companies also install optical fibre taps or “probes” into equipment belonging to other companies without their knowledge or consent. Within GCHQ, each company has a special section called a “Sensitive Relationship Team” or SRT. [The Register]
This is particularly interesting because one of the two submarine cables from Seeb station in Muscat provides backbone connectivity to western India via Mumbai (wild guess, probably at Prabhadevi). This map will better illustrate the route of the eastern half of Seeb station’s connectivity. The report alleges that BT and Vodafone are two top earners of secret payments from Britain’s SIGINT organization, GCHQ. Lest we forget, India represents Vodafone’s largest customer base and the company’s second-largest country in terms of data traffic.
This begs the question: if any of this is true, just how badly compromised is India’s Internet and telecommunications data if the integrity of one of its main egress and ingress points is in question? The Luddites among us, I’m sure, look on with barely-concealed glee.