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Equally worrying are reports that hackers could use the webcam on your laptop without even triggering the embedded warning light that indicates to the owner that the camera is in use.
Even so, it seems doubtful that the mass collection of intimate images of innocent people was something that the authors of this law intended.The Edward Snowden leaks revealed that GCHQ is tapping many of the large internet backbone cables that carry hundreds of gigabits of information from computers all over the world every second, including unencrypted Yahoo chat sessions.GCHQ’s main technical achievement was to find a way of scanning this massive amount of data and extracting the webcam images.While easy to do for a single image, the scale on which GCHQ did this must have taken a great deal of both technical expertise and computing power.The second issue GCHQ had was how to store so much data. Only one still image from every five minutes of video was stored.Yahoo’s web chat server was based on its Yahoo Messenger system, which dates back to the nineties.
This legacy system has never supported encryption and it was this weakness that made it possible for GCHQ to harvest personal images on such a large scale.
The best option of all would be for some discussion about how we strike the balance between personal privacy and national or international security.
According to the latest leaked documents, GCHQ staff have been viewing intimate images of webcam users who were not intelligence targets.
Apple’s Face Time encrypts the images end-to-end, all the way from one user to the other, giving the best level of protection.
That said, incidents such as the recently discovered “goto fail” bug in Apple’s encryption remind us that any protection system can fail.
This would make the mass harvesting of images harder, but still allows Google access to the images.