National Security Agency (NSA) documents taken by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News reveal that the British spy unit known as the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG) developed and deployed offensive strategies that included hacking social networks, spying on journalists and diplomats, and using the promise of sex to lure targets into “honey traps.”
The agency’s goal was to “destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt” threats by “discrediting” them.
In addition to planting viruses and launching ‘denial of service’ attacks against targets, JTRIG and affiliated organizations also ran numerous “false flag” operations in which they hacked into the social media accounts of presumptive threats and altered them, as shown in the slide — obtained by NBC — below:
The documents obtained by NBC do not, however, detail any successful operation in which these tactics were used, though they did specify that such tactics had been a “major part” of the agencies’s recent offensives.
The documents also indicate that the British government’s communications agency, the GCHQ, has begun to engage in espionage operations that previously fell under the aegis of MI5 and MI6.
According to the documents, GCHQ engineered a computer virus called “Ambassadors Reception,” which was deemed “very effective” at paralyzing targets’s computers.
Another technique, known as the “honey trap,” is claimed in the documents to have been “very successful when it works.”
No specific instance of a “honey trap” working is mentioned in them, but such techniques usually involve isolating a male target and leading him to believe that he has the opportunity to engage in a romantic relationship or clandestine sexual encounter, only to find that the woman he was to meet is an intelligence operative.
The GCHQ issued a statement which read, in part, that “[a]ll of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensure[s] that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All of our operational processes rigorously support this position.”