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The great SIM heist

American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the worldâ??s cellular communications, including both voice and data.

The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.

The Americans and British hacking into a Dutch company’s private network to steal information so they can spy on pretty much everyone. And we call them our “allies”. This is way, way worse than whatever the North-Koreans supposedly did to Sony.

In a just world, the people responsible for this act of aggression would be dragged to The Hague to face justice. Alas – we do not live in a just world. My own Dutch government will sweep this under the rug after some fake posturing for the electorate, and that’s that.

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