Berlin: US spy agency NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ infiltrated the computer system of oil body OPEC through doctored webpages of popular Internet portals like business network LinkedIn, a media report said today.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) manipulated the webpages of LinkedIn and other portals to gain access to the computers of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and various companies and to plant a malware with the help of a method called “Quantum Insert”, German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reported.
The sophisticated programme enabled the British intelligence agency to infiltrate the computers of nine employees of OPEC in 2010, top secret GCHQ documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have revealed.
It opened the agency’s analysts gateways to OPEC’s computer system, helped them acquire dministrator privileges for the organisation’s network and gave them access to two secret servers containing “many documents of interest” Der Spiegel said.
The NSA penetrated deeper into the 12-nation cartel of oil producers, which has its headquarters in Vienna and reached up to level of its secretary general, NSA documents leaked by Snowden showed.
Saudi Arabia’s OPEC governor is among the officials targeted for surveillance, the news weekly said.
The GCHQ used fake LinkedIn webpages to infiltrate the computers of the Belgian telecommunication company Belgacom, whose customers included the European Union.
The agency launched its espionage operation with the aim of building up a strong surveillance position in the field of mobile Internet services similar to those it achieved in the area of fixed line Internet with the help of its Tempora programme which extracts and processes data from fibre optic cable communications, Der Spiegel said.
When Belgacom was subjected to persistent hacker attacks for more than two years, the origin of the attacks could not be traced.
Documents leaked by Snowden earlier this year revealed that the GCHQ was behind the attack and it planted malware on the computers of several Belgacom employees.
The latest batch of documents disclosed by Snowden have now revealed the intention of the espionage operations, the news weekly said in its latest edition.
The documents showed the GCHQ also infiltrated the computers of companies which operate as sub-contractors in international mobile communication business, including accounting firms such as Mach, which provides the roaming business for various mobile phone service providers.
With the help of the “Quantum Insert” programme, the GCHQ infiltrated deep into the computer network of Mach and gained detailed information on its communication infrastructure, its business operations and persons holding key positions in the company, Der Spiegel said.