Wednesday, February 24, 2021

EYP will be able to monitor Viber and WhatsApp


An Italian company, based in Milan, which has installed similar systems in Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and other countries in Europe and the Middle East has qualified – as revealed by “TA NEA” – to take over the new “Big Brother” of EYP which will be able to draw call data from online applications such as Viber, WhatsApp, Signal and so on.
This is a new, modern telephone surveillance system that will be acquired by the secret services after a tender process (at a cost of 6,200,000 euros) and which will be able to record hundreds of mobile phones. Its difference from the existing monitoring systems lies precisely in its ability to fully map the telephone contacts between the internet platforms, adding an important “weapon” to the quiver of the Greek authorities. The old system of EYP (German technology) but also those that have a Counter-Terrorism Service and Directorate of Information Management and Analysis are deprived of this possibility. At the same time, however, its introduction is expected to bring about changes in the way criminal groups operate, which – based on data – proceed to online negotiations for 90% of their conversations and about which until now the Greek services could not know anything.

Privacy lifts

Lawful state interceptions provide law enforcement with more and more evidence to shed light on criminal acts, armed attacks and other incidents. Indicatively, in the two years 2018-2019, about 29,000 decisions of prosecutors or judicial councils were issued for declassification of conversations, with the attendees being multiple. 29% of the parliaments committed organized crime (thefts, robberies and weapons), 9% purely in drug cases, 15% in cases of distinguished theft, 21% in cases of distinguished robberies, 2% in cases of bribery of civil servants, 3% in arson crimes, 5% in explosion-related offenses, 2% in child pornography and 3% in customs code violations. The lifting of secrecy by prosecutorial order, however, is done with reference to national security, without justification and mainly concerns cases of domestic and international terrorism, espionage and so on.

The system available so far to the EYP (respectively the Hellenic Post) has the ability to record conversations of about 600 mobile and 100 landline phones, as well as the live monitoring of 100 phones. The system was acquired in the period 2005-2007, but presented operational problems and is considered obsolete. In fact, inspections carried out by the Communications Privacy Authority found that it did not offer many safeguards, which left suspicions of any illegal state interception.

Record thousands of goals

So, it was decided to supply a new system that will also concern the internet applications of mobile phones. The tender announcement for the supply of the new system of EYP was made on July 18, 2020 with relatively short deadlines (submission of tenders until the beginning of August) and with special attention to the non-involvement of third companies. And this to avoid overpricing and other irregularities that were reported during the previous supply, 15 years ago.

According to its specifications, with the new system, the Authorities will be able to monitor-record at least 1,100 “targets” of mobile telephony and 500 targets of fixed telephony. In addition, the new system will ensure the simultaneous live monitoring of 350 “targets” of mobile telephony and 200 targets of fixed telephony. In other words, it has the ability to monitor three times “targets” compared to the previous one.

And in internet calls

However, what is considered particularly innovative and introduces the new monitoring system is that the Authorities will have access to the contacts that the respective holder will be able to call via Viber and about 1,000 other internet telephony programs (VoIP-Voice over Internet Protocol), but and which websites he visits and which profile he uses on Facebook via his mobile phone, something that was not possible until now. In this way, the EYP will be able to map internet calls and contacts, creating a clear picture of persons and interfaces that did not exist until now and which conclusions were drawn after the seizure of devices and the control or retrieval of data. Moreover, what mainly made it difficult for the Authorities to monitor such applications was the constant changes in the algorithms.

Two Italian, two Israeli and one Canadian company had submitted bids for the new system. Three of them (one from each country) were excluded due to untimely presentation of required certificates in their file, while the second Israeli was excluded due to technical characteristics. In any case, the process is already under the control of the Court of Auditors and then the installation of the system by the Italian company, founded in 1993, will begin – if everything goes smoothly.

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