GCHQ Details Cases of When It Would Use Bulk Hacking

The Investigatory Powers Bill legislation was led by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary; she is now Prime Minister. Image: Twocoms/Shutterstock
As the UK prepares to solidify the country’s mass surveillance powers in law, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation on Friday published his review of those capabilities.


A looming power that is yet to be formalised into law but may become increasingly crucial is “bulk equipment interference,” a term used to reference mass hacking. The security and intelligence agencies have argued that they need equipment interference (EI) powers owing to the increased proliferation of encryption and anonymisation technologies.

Under the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill, security and intelligence agencies could apply for bulk EI warrants, allowing them to hack a large number of devices. The operations must be geared towards national security and have a foreign focus. (Similar “targeted thematic warrants” will also be introduced; although those are not the subject of the review).

In his review, David Anderson concludes there is a “distinct (though not yet proven) operational case” for including bulk EI powers in the Bill.

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