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Tech . Editor
“As if you wanted to put a microphone on every table in a coffee shop that was always open,” says former intelligence supervisor Bert Hubert. “And he also says, ‘We don’t listen, you know.'”
Another former supervisor, Ronald Prinze, supports a new law. According to him, “a lot of damage” was done because it was not possible to conduct “legitimate investigations”, because current law does not allow this.
More than four years after the referendum on the intelligence law, there are first signs of a new and fierce debate over the powers of the intelligence services. In a temporary law, the government says it wants to give intelligence services “more freedom” in fighting foreign government hackers. This concerns countries such as China and Russia.
Critics say this means curtailing the hard-earned guarantees put in place after the majority voted against the law. But proponents argue that in some cases current law is not sufficient and that intelligence services are sometimes simply unable to take action.
The bill will likely go to the House of Representatives soon and could be amended before that time, but major changes are no longer expected. Parliament can still make changes to the law.
Hacking is easier
The plans that NOS talked about last year mentioned, ensure, among other things, that the Services can be hacked more easily. It is no longer necessary to close the technical risks of breakouts in advance, and the possibilities of “strategic breakouts” have also been expanded. In this way, intelligence services can break into a place where they can get interesting information later.
“One good theoretical example is that the services could then break into Glonass, the Russian GPS service,” says Bart Jacobs, a professor of computer security at Radboud University who was previously involved in assessing the intelligence law.
Now intelligence services also have to ask for permission to hack every device, but under the new law they only ask for permission once to hack someone, and they can also break into devices they find later, even if they are used by others as well.
There will also be the possibility of clicking on the cable, without having a tangible goal. This so-called “snapshot” is intended to be able to estimate the type of traffic that passes through a cable and how useful this information is. The collected information may be kept for a year, but on the other hand, the services are not allowed to use it in a material way.
Therefore, these broader powers may only be used against hackers from foreign countries. According to the Cabinet and the intelligence services themselves, this is important because very quick action must be taken there, for example if they try to track down a foreign intruder. With clicks on the Internet on a larger scale, the services can also detect where foreign government hackers are trying to break into.
Together there will be a law of sleep
After the intelligence law referendum, additional guarantees were introduced into the law, such as a commitment to act “as specifically as possible.” This is challenged in the war against the state pirates.
“Overall, I would venture to say that there will now be a law of withdrawal,” says former supervisor Hubert. “It’s basically an attempt to get past it again.”
Until recently, Hubert was a technical expert on the Commission on Deployment of Powers, which determines in advance whether intelligence services are allowed to eavesdrop or hack. He resigned in protest of the law.
However, his predecessor on that committee is a strong supporter. “I’ve seen legitimate requests that everyone say: Good idea, do it,” said Ronald Prins, a panelist from 2018 to 2020. “However, it was not allowed.”
It seems that people are afraid of our intelligence services, not the outside world
According to him, the fear of the intelligence services is unjustified. “People seem to be afraid of our intelligence services, not of the evil outside world,” Prins said. “But these devices are there to protect us.”
In the war against countries like Russia and China, Hubert says, we should not suddenly ignore civil rights. Moreover, the law, however well-intentioned, can be misused in the future. “And you write a law not only for good weather, but also to prevent things from going wrong.”
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