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These are the absurd names British intelligence spies have to remember to spy on you

Published Jul 15th, 2014 9:45PM EDT
GCHQ Names for Spying Tools

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In case you didn’t know it by now, spy agencies are really good – and hopefully effective – at spying on people, including both actual valid targets as well as unsuspecting citizens who aren’t plotting anything bigger than a trip to an exotic country. To further demonstrate the power of one such agency – NSA’s close buddy, the British GCHQ, in this case – The Intercept has published a new Snowden leak, which reveals such ambitious mass spying plans, as well as their silly names.

“The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, “amplif[y]” sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be “extremist,” the publication writes. “The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call.”

Here are some of the silly names used for spying operations by GCHQ:

  • “Mass delivery of email messaging to support an Information Operations campaign” (BADGER) and “mass delivery of SMS messages to support an Information Operations campaign” (WARPARTH)
  • “Active skype capability. Provision of real time call records (SkypeOut and SkypetoSkype) and bidirectional instant messaging. Also contact lists.” (MINIATURE HERO)
  • “Find private photographs of targets on Facebook” (SPRING BISHOP)
  • “A tool that will permanently disable a target’s account on their computer” (ANGRY PIRATE)
  • “Targeted Denial Of Service against Web Servers” (PREDATORS FACE) and “Distributed denial of service using P2P. Built by ICTR, deployed by JTRIG” (ROLLING THUNDER)
  • “For connecting two target phone together in a call” (IMPERIAL BARGE)

It must be hard to be a GCHQ operative too, having to remember all these names. After all, you wouldn’t want to be ordered to legally perform a joint BADGER-WARPARTH operation following by an ANGRY PIRATE and MINIATURE HERO combo, and not know what to do.

On a more serious note, it’s worth pointing out that while GCHQ refused to provide any comment to The Intercept on the matter, saying only that it acts “in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework,” the Snowden leak has also revealed that most of these tools are “fully operational, tested and reliable.”

“We only advertise tools here that are either ready to fire or very close to being ready,” GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) wrote in the leaked documents.

More such interesting names for spying operations are available at the source link, while this chart will tell you everything about all the NSA leaks detailing wild spying tools.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.