Responding to the news that American and British spies hacked into Gemalto, a Netherlands sim card manufacturer, in a move that gave them unfettered access to billions of cellphones around the globe, Anne Jellema, the Chief Executive Officer of the World Wide Web Foundation, said:
“The news that US and UK spy agencies hacked the network of a Dutch company to steal encryption keys for billions of SIM cards is truly shocking. Possession of these keys would allow these agencies to access private calls, web browsing records and other online communications without any of the legal safeguards and processes in place to prevent abuses of power. This is yet another worrying sign that these agencies think they are above the law. Apart from its blatant disregard for multiple human rights, this foolish move undermines the security and future of the global mobile payments industry, which is estimated to be worth over $235bn globally. It also impacts countries and poorer individuals in the Global South disproportionately, where internet access is typically mobile based, and relied upon to trade and connect.
“It’s time for answers. The NSA and GCHQ, and the politicians responsible for their oversight, need to provide a full and frank disclosure as to why they hacked a private company, and one headquartered in an ally country. We also need to understand how these keys were used, and what judicial oversight and legal framework kept us safe from abuses. Urgent steps must be taken to prevent criminal networks from exploiting these vulnerabilities.”
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