GCHQ 'hacked oil body OPEC'

Snowden leak indicates GCHQ used fake LinkedIn pages to serve up malware to OPEC employees in Austria.


British and US intelligence agencies infiltrated the computer systems of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the latest Edward Snowden leaks have revealed.

GCHQ is believed to have hacked computers of nine employees at OPEC, a group designed to coordinate oil prices across member states, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

British snoops managed to gain administrator privileges for the OPEC network at the organisation's Vienna headquarters, acquiring access to two servers containing "many documents of interest", according to German title Der Spiegel.

GCHQ agents were said to have used social engineering tactics to infect targets, using fake LinkedIn and Slashdot pages to serve up malware.

Global roaming exchanges, akin to internet exchanges for dealing with mobile traffic for those travelling around the world, were also targeted with similar tactics.

The NSA appeared to be targeting information on Saudi manipulation of oil prices in its successful breaches of OPEC.

The oil body had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

GCHQ is facing pressure to talk about an alleged attack on another major organisation, Belgium-based ISP Belgacom, which is a supplier to the European Union.

Last week, officials from GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 appeared before the Intelligence and Security Committee, offering a defence of their surveillance and an attack on those leaking information from Snowden.

They claimed the leaks had been hugely damaging to surveillance operations, which were designed to catch terrorists, paedophiles and others using encryption and various anonymising tools to cover their tracks. Sir John Sawers, head of MI6, said Al-Qaeda was "lapping it up".

Meanwhile, Britain has been accused of spying on Iceland when the financial crisis hit and UK institutions wanted to recover money from bankrupt Icelandic banks. MP Birgitta Jnsdttir said she had received a tip-off from Wikileaks leader Julian Assange in 2010, claiming agents had intercepted email messages of Icelandic negotiators.

She told Icelandic paper Visir that the UK "had very good access to everything that was going on between members of the team".

"It is the role of intelligence, for example MI5, to spy on other countries, especially if it concerns their national interests. Their duty was to gather information and intelligence about us, and the duty of the Icelandic government was to do everything to protect us against such espionage."

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