Monday, September 19, 2011

Real-time Technique Used to Spy on Gmail Accounts Detailed in Korean Legal Battle

Ease of use for a technique known as packet tapping to spy on Gmail accounts, has been detailed in court documents in a high-profile legal appeal in S. Korea. As reported in S. Korea’s Hankyoreh Shinmun Times on Friday:

Unlike normal communication tapping methods, packet tapping is a technology that allows a real-time view of all content coming and going via the Internet. It opens all packets of a designated user that are transmitted via the Internet. This was impossible in the early days of the Internet, but monitoring and vetting of desired information only from among huge amounts of packet information became possible with the development of “deep packet inspection” technology. Deep packet inspection technology is used not only for censorship, but also in marketing such as custom advertising on Gmail and Facebook.

[South Korea’s] National Intelligence Service [NIS] itself disclosed that Gmail tapping was taking place in the process of responding to a constitutional appeal filed by 52-year-old former teacher Kim Hyeong-geun, who was the object of packet tapping, in March this year.

The NIS went on to explain, “[Some Korean citizens] systematically attempt so-called ‘cyber asylum,’ in ways such as using foreign mail services (Gmail, Hotmail) that lie beyond the boundaries of Korea‘s investigative authority, making packet tapping an inevitable measure for dealing with this.”

The NIS asserted the need to tap Gmail when applying to a court of law for permission to also use communication restriction measures [packet tapping]. The court, too, accepted the NIS’s request at the time and granted permission for packet tapping.

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