Equipment Interference

What is equipment interference?

Equipment interference, also known as computer network exploitation (CNE), allows MI5 to interfere with electronic "equipment". This includes computers, computer media (such as CDs or USB sticks) and smartphones for the purpose of obtaining communications or other information. Equipment interference encompasses a range of activity, from remote access to computers and other electronic equipment to covertly downloading the contents of a mobile phone or storage media during a search.

What is equipment interference used for?

Where necessary and proportionate, MI5 needs to be able to access communications or other information held on computers or other equipment in order to gain valuable intelligence in national security investigations. Equipment interference plays an important role in making up for the loss of intelligence that may no longer be obtained through other techniques, such as interception, as a result of sophisticated encryption. It can sometimes be the only method by which we can acquire the data.

What is the legal framework governing equipment interference?

“MI5’s use of equipment interference is only allowed under the authority of a warrant, which is signed by the Secretary of State (usually the Home Secretary), where they are satisfied that it is necessary and proportionate, and which must be approved by a Judicial Commissioner. These warrants are issued under the terms of Part 5 Investigatory Powers Act and our conduct under such a warrant is in accordance with the Equipment Interference Code of Conduct. The retention and disclosure of material obtained under a warrant is subject to safeguards, as set out in the Investigatory Powers Act. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office oversees the acquisition and use of this type of data.”

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