Despite Brexit, British police can influence surveillance laws in the EU. The country is also represented in European secret service circles.
Notwithstanding its exit from the European Union, the British police will remain a member of a Standing Heads of Lawful Interception Units based at Europol. The UK is represented there by the National Crime Agency. This was confirmed by the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, in her answer to a parlamentary question by the pirate Patrick Breyer. The UK is thus the only third country in the group, which otherwise consists exclusively of EU members and the Schengen states Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.
The working group of the departments on telecommunications surveillance had once been founded as a strategic „5G Expert Group“ on the initiative of the German Federal Criminal Police Office. It was supposed to give the authorities access to the new telephone standard, which was actually tap-proof. After this was successfully pushed through in the European and international standardisation bodies ETSI and 3GPP, the group was given a new name and new tasks in October 2021. It is now to ensure that the needs of law enforcement agencies are taken into account when amending surveillance laws at EU level and in the member states. „Encrypted communication: UK remains member of EU interception group“ weiterlesen
So far, German authorities can only notify mobile phones of an impending disaster if their owners have registered beforehand. Soon it will be possible to warn all phones within a certain radius. It is questionable who will decide whether to send such a message.
The German government is another step closer to introducing the „Cell Broadcast“ warning system. Yesterday, the Federal Cabinet agreed on a „formulation aid“ to amend the Telecommunications Act (TKG). If it is passed by the Bundestag, all mobile phones that are logged into a certain mobile phone cell can be warned of an impending event with a text message. The system is not tied to specific phone numbers, but the reception of „cell broadcast“ messages must be activated manually on some mobile phones.
The standard of „Cell Broadcast“ is defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), in which worldwide standardisation bodies have joined forces. Accordingly, the service, which was initially only available in GSM networks, can now also be used with LTE and 5G. „Cell Broadcast“ messages can only comprise a maximum of 93 characters. The latest specification extends this to 1,395 characters by sending a total of 15 continuous messages of 93 characters. In addition, the mobile phone emits an alarm tone and vibrates even if it is muted. „Germany: Further step towards the introduction of „Cell Broadcast““ weiterlesen
European police authorities are invited to submit proposals for the development of an interception platform. Authorities from third countries can also participate in the research project. Several German initiatives, including those of the domestic secret service, served as door openers.
The EU Commission announces new efforts to break end-to-end encrypted communications. This is according to the work programme of the Horizon 2020 research framework programme, which proposes numerous new projects in the area of „Civil Security for Society“ for the next two years. According to this, the Commission wants to spend five million euros on a platform for penetrating encrypted telephony.
The focus is on intercepting connections of the fifth mobile phone generation, which makes encrypted and anonymised connections technically possible. The project in the research line „Fighting crime and terrorism“ is therefore entitled „Lawful interception using new and emerging technologies (5G & beyond, quantum computing and encryption)“. „Security research: EU Commission to fund technology to decrypt 5G connections“ weiterlesen
Germany uses its EU Presidency to reorganise digital surveillance in Europe. A 5G working group temporarily set up by the BKA is now being consolidated at Europol. It is to coordinate the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States and facilitate interception through new legislative proposals.
The German Presidency of the EU Council wants to set up a Europe-wide working group on the interception of telecommunications by police forces and secret services. This emerges from a document put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. The „Permanent Group of the Heads of Interception Units“ is to consist of the departments responsible in several Member States.
With this initiative, the German Government wants to improve the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States. However, a central office for interception of telecommunications located at the European Union is probably not adressed, as this would be contrary to the EU treaties. Europol could, however, take on an intermediary role, as it does in the cross-border tracking of GPS transmitters, and ensure that in cross-border investigations different authorities do not monitor the same telephone lines. „Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol“ weiterlesen
In the fifth generation of mobile communications, encrypted and anonymous connections are technically feasible. Police and secret services, however, provide new interception possibilities
Following the auction of frequencies, mobile operators are building the new 5G network. This fifth generation of mobile phones is considered particularly secure because of its concept of „Privacy by Design“. Connections can be encrypted end-to-end, which makes interception much more difficult. The device numbers of the telephones and the unique identification of the SIM cards are also transmitted in encrypted form. Under 5G, the registered mobile phones also recognize suspicious mobile cells. This makes the IMSI catcher currently in use unusable for locating and listening to telephones in the vicinity.
The new possibilities for encryption and anonymisation are causing police forces and secret services headaches. The German Federal Ministry of the Interior complains of „additional technical hurdles in the monitoring of telecommunications and the implementation of technical investigation measures“ and announces „adjustments“ of the telecommunications legislation. „„Obstacles to surveillance“: How authorities insecure 5G telephony“ weiterlesen
5G telephony makes communication more secure. Connections, subscriber and device identifiers are partly encrypted, also conventional IMSI catchers become useless. Providers could therefore be forced to install new surveillance technology.
With Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), the fifth mobile phone generation (5G) decomposes the transmission of telephone calls into individual stages and and encrypts them. Telecommunications providers no longer process the traffic centrally, but via various network edges. The metadata and content is only decrypted at these decentralized nodes.
That means that with 5G telephony, communication becomes much more secure. This poses a problem for police forces and secret services. „Surveillance of 5G: Governments plan to change laws“ weiterlesen
The EU is increasing the surveillance in its Member States. US authorities could soon also wiretap legally in Europe
The new European Parliament is to be constituted in September, after which the EU Commission will be re-elected. The governments of the member states use this phase to put far-reaching surveillance measures on track. This week the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers debated this on their Council meeting in Luxembourg.
Data retention is right at the top of the agenda. EU-wide, Internet and telephone providers are to be forced to store data on customers and their communications for years. If necessary, these could later be queried by police authorities or secret services. Although the European Union adopted a corresponding directive in 2006, it was declared invalid ten years later by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). As a result, many member states issued national regulations that differ in the depth of intervention or storage period. „EU surveillance state“ weiterlesen
As the preventive retention of telecommunication data is illegal throughout the EU, the retention of data from individual countries or regions might be an option. This is discussed by the EU member states, documents from the Council and the German Federal Government reveal. A “renewable arrest warrant” could be created for this purpose.
The EU member states are currently discussing a possible new version of the Data Retention Directive. The Bulgarian Presidency of the Council has proposed the adoption of “renewable retention warrants” in the responsible Council Working Party on Information Exchange and Data Protection. The Estonian Presidency had already touched on this issue in the second half of 2017, albeit offering scant detail at the time. According to the German Federal Ministry of Justice, these “still very preliminary considerations” are also being examined by the German Government. „EU Data Retention Directive: For a limited time period, but with option to be extended?“ weiterlesen
The European Investigation Order in criminal matters allows judicial authorities in all EU Member States to instruct each other to collect evidence. It also sets forth provisions for cross-border telecommunications surveillance. The European standardisation institute ETSI is consequently working on interfaces for the hand-over of intercepted phone calls.
By May 22nd, the Member States of the European Union have to transpose the European Investigation Order in criminal matters (EIO) into national law. The Directive defines cross-border cooperation between judicial authorities including courts, investigating judges and public prosecutor’s offices. In the future, an “issuing State” can oblige an “executing State” to gather evidence in criminal proceedings. This entails inter alia conducting investigations.
It also sets forth provisions for the “temporary transfer of persons held in custody”, hearings by video or telephone conference or the use of the European arrest warrant to transfer people (including temporarily) to courts of another state. There is a dedicated chapter on telecommunications surveillance and the transfer of the “electronic evidence” gathered during such. „Project SMILE: Interface for European telecommunications interception“ weiterlesen