UK Hacking Scandal Revealed
Now the question must certainly be asked if the spies spy on the spies. Did Obama and Prism and the National Security Agency know that the hundreds of British law firms, insurance brokers and bankers were spying gleaning personal data from private individuals? Probably not, they were too busy chasing after Edward Snowden, who by the way the world now seems to have forgotten. The fact that his father advised him to remain in Russia went largely unnoticed in the press and media in the past few days.
In what has become known as the ‘blue-chip’ hacking scandal, 300 companies in the UK in the field of law, insurance and banking have hired private investigators to get private information regarding people. The police had been given a list of 102 names of companies that had carried out the shady practices, but it turns out that there is another secondary list with 200 names on it of companies that have been taking part in. Some say in the UK that alongside this scandal the newspaper hacking episode the UK experienced won’t be a patch on what is to be revealed. We can’t wait, I her you say rubbing your hands together with glee.
The British Home Secretary, Theresa May, stated that she would introduce regulations which will mean that anybody who has already committed hacking will be stopped from becoming a private investigator and anyone who operates without having gained a private investigator’s license will face maximum half a year in prison. Although, the question certainly comes to mind as to how a private investigator actually might operate without resorting to hacking in today’s modern age. It’s a bit like doping in sport, isn’t it? Everybody is at it; otherwise they wouldn’t be top sportsmen. But, nobody says they are doing it.
A report published by the Serious Organised Crime Agency found that the vast majority of private investigations into individuals’ lives was carried out by firms that had prominent positions in the economy with a respectable image by the public. The 300 companies in the UK are under investigation primarily for intercepting phone calls, blagging (or making someone believe that you are a bone fide caller to gain information about them) as well as internet hacking and gaining access to people’s IT equipment.
The list is said to be a ‘Pandora’s box’ that once fully opened will mean that hundreds of bankers and insurance brokers as well as lawyers will be jailed in the UK. That’s the official line, at least. The list contains prominent figures in the world of banking and companies from the FTSE 100. Although, it seems that the only people to be actually surprised that any of this has been going (probably from time immemorial) are the journalists and the media. Are we really surprised that companies and banks have been using spying tactics to get information about their customers? It’s rather much of a no-brainer it would seem. After all, the state is at it, there are people who do it peeking from behind their curtains, twitching at every movement, our bins get rifled through, our identities get stolen; so are we shocked by the fact that companies are doing it and the banking system? Did we suddenly expect thebanksters to get morals and steer clear of that sort of thing?
However, the Serious Organised Crime Agency had already compiled the list as far back as 2008 and had not given it up to the police to allow for prosecution until very recently. The private investigators used British Telecom andBritish Gas as well as HM Revenue and Customs to gain information also, allowing them to access bank details, phone lines and tax returns of private individuals in the UK.
The Data Protection Act in the UK was passed in 1998 and is in line with the EU Data Protection Directive of 1995. A quarter of UK citizens are subject to identity fraud and the country already has the worst ranking in the EU today for this. In the EU, the figure only stands at about 17%.
In a country which has laws that are supposed to protect people from being hacked and gaining information about them, but which also ranks at the bottom in the list, it is hardly surprising that banks and insurance companies as well as law firms have been playing the game too.
The following article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.