Internet Firms Take Legal Action Against GCHQ
Seven internet companies have filed a legal complaint calling for an end to GCHQ's alleged use of "malicious software" to break into their networks.
The case against the Government's listening post has been submitted on behalf of internet service providers (ISPs) in seven countries; the UK, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zimbabwe.
The complaints are based on articles published earlier this year in German magazine Der Spiegel, which included claims that employees at a Belgian telecoms group were targeted with malicious software.
It was also reported that intelligence agencies have a range of network exploitation and intrusion capabilities to infect users.
In addition, the reports claimed that German internet exchange points were targeted, allowing agencies to spy on all internet traffic coming through those nodes.
It is alleged by the ISPs that such attacks are a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, and interfere with the privacy rights of the employees under the European Convention of Human Rights.
It is the first time GCHQ has faced such an action.
Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: "These widespread attacks on providers and collectives undermine the trust we all place on the internet and greatly endangers the world's most powerful tool for democracy and free expression.
"It completely cripples our confidence in the internet economy and threatens the rights of all those who use it. These unlawful activities, run jointly by GCHQ and the NSA, must come to an end immediately."
The complaint has been filed with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the London court which rules on complaints about intelligence agencies and misuse of surveillance data by government organisations.
The ISPs involved in the action are UK-based GreenNet, Jinbonet (South Korea), Riseup (US), Greenhost (Netherlands), Mango (Zimbabwe), May First/People Link (US) and the Chaos Computer Club (Germany).