Sunday 27 May 2018

UK security firm stands over GSOC security claims

Mr Justice John Cooke
Mr Justice John Cooke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

THE UK security firm at the centre of the Garda Ombudsman bugging scandal is standing over claims that possible security threats were identified in the watchdog's headquarters.

But Verrimus said it was never its role to uncover the source of any possible surveillance, but rather to highlight areas susceptible to threats.

Retired judge John Cooke was appointed by the Government to conduct an investigation after 'The Sunday Times' published a story claiming the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was targeted by a surveillance operation using "government level technology".

Mr Cooke found no evidence of garda or Defence Forces surveillance on the watchdog's office. He dismissed three of the two alleged security anomalies Verrimus found in GSOC's office, and said the third showed no evidence of garda surveillance. Last night, Verrimus said it had been tasked with conducting an investigation to "identify possible technical surveillance vulnerabilities to the security of critical information".

Verrimus said it provided GSOC with "clear evidence" and reports of a "technical nature" along with a verbal debrief.

The company said the three vulnerabilities identified during its investigations were "indicative" of surveillance methods used to gather information.

But it agreed with Mr Cooke who said that in the world of covert surveillance it is difficult to determine with "complete certainty" whether technical anomalies are an "unlawful intrusion".

The firm said it was reassured by Mr Cooke's recommendations that GSOC should act to improve existing security arrangements. The company believed a microphone enabled wi-fi device in GSOC's boardroom was not secure and was potentially used to listen to phone calls. But Mr Cooke found it "highly improbable" that the device was used as an eavesdropping mechanism.

The second threat was the detection of a "fake" UK phone network which Verrimus believed indicated the presence of an IMSI catcher which could be used to intercept mobile telephone calls. Mr Cooke said it was "highly likely" to have been a mobile provider testing a 4G network in the vicinity.

The third threat regarded the possibility that a phone in GSOC chairman Simon O'Brien's office could have been "tapped". Mr Cooke said there was no evidence to suggest there was any misbehaviour by gardai.

Both GSOC and Verrimus have so far not commented on allegations they made of "physical surveillance".

Irish Independent

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