- The revelation came after Germany’s secret service investigated the devices
- It warned that they were ‘trojan horses’ capable of fishing for information
- Warnings have gone out to every government that received them
PUBLISHED: 08:53 EST, 29 October 2013 | UPDATED: 09:53 EST, 29 October 2013
America’s NSA spy agency has been under fire from around the world for its surveillance activity over the past few months.
Now the Russians are facing criticism for some allegedly shady operations, too.
It’s claimed that USB drives and phone chargers, given to world leaders at the G20 summit in Russia were ‘Trojan horses’ capable of sending data back to the Kremlin.
Vladimir Putin welcomes David Cameron for the G20 summit – but were phone charger gifts at the event actually spying devices?
David Cameron did not receive one of the USB sticks, Downing Street insisted.
But No 10 did not rule out the possibility that officials were given one of the pen drives that is said to have contained a Trojan horse programme allowing sensitive documents stored on laptops to be accessed.
German secret services reportedly discovered that the gadgets, given out to all delegates at the meeting of world leaders in St Petersburg last month, were able to retrieve data for use by the Russians.
Warnings are said to have gone out to all participating governments, urging them to ‘take every possible precaution’.
The sensational allegations were made by the Italian newspapers La Stampa and Corriere della Sera, quoting EU diplomatic sources.
The alarm was apparently first raised by EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who was suspicious of the Russians’ gifts.
Within a few days of his return from the conference, President Van Rompuy asked security officials in Brussels to check out the contraptions. They then decided to call in the help of Germans, who confirmed their fears, the sources told Italian media.
The immediate response from technicians in Bonn sent shockwaves throughout diplomatic and security services of half the world.
‘Early analysis showed the USB drive and mobile phone charging cables gifted by the Russians to be Trojan horses- instruments capable of capturing data from computers and mobile phones,’ sources told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Controversial charges: It’s claimed that the Russians gave world leaders devices that could read data (stock image)
The attempted surveillance operation is one of the simplest but most audacious exposed since the end of the Cold War.
Official communication sent to intelligence channels in all participating States explained that ‘the USB stick and power cables are suitable for the illegal collection of data on computers and cell phones.’, the newspaper reported.
‘We urge you to take every possible precaution if these items have been used and if not to entrust them to the security structures for further inspection.’
The G20 conference in September took place in a climate of great diplomatic tension between Russia and the West.
Only weeks before, the Kremlin had granted asylum to Datagate fugitive Edward Snowden, wanted for leaking security information about US surveillance to the Guardian.
At the same time, the US and France were at loggerheads with Russia over intervention in Syria.
The conference began on September 5 with world leaders meeting at Stelna, outside St Petersburg in the Constantine Palace. Security was impenetrable.
Presided over by Russian President Vladimir Putin, G20 leaders in attendance included Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta as well as the leaders of China, Argentina, Brazil and invited leaders such as Mariano Rajoy of Spain.
All attendees, including delegation leaders are believed to have received the gifts, although it is not known if they were used before the warning went out.
Russia’s powerful spymasters have already benefited from the global secrets pouring in from Western whistleblowers.
Over the past five years, material such as the Wikileaks cache including 250,000 leaked embassy cables and nearly 500,000 Pentagon documents, and now the Snowden leaks, have exposed techniques used to keep the UK safe and put the lives of security services operatives and their families at risk.
In 2011 Canadian naval officer Lt. Jeffery Delisle was revealed to have sold Russian military agents some of the UK’s most closely guarded defence and intelligence secrets.
Only a week ago Russia was forced to deny claims that the head of a Russian government-run cultural exchange programme tried to recruit young Americans as intelligence assets. An embassy official in Washington said: ‘It’s a shame that echoes of the cold war are heard in Russian-American relations from time to time.’
Who knows what: Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called for a review of all spying programs after world leaders found out they were subject to NSA protocols
The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland: The government agency has allegedly been spying on European leaders
As a result of the NSA scandal, meanwhile, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a ‘total review of all intelligence programs’ after it was reported that the agency had been collecting phone records for dozens of allied leaders.
‘The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support,’ Feinstein said Monday.
‘But as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing. To that end, the committee will initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs.’
Fresh anger over the NSA’s activities erupted this week when Spanish media reported that the NSA monitored tens of millions of phone calls in Spain between December 2012 and early 2013.
The NSA allegedly gathered intelligence on 60 million phone calls made in Spain, which included callers’ numbers and locations, but not conversations, it was claimed in reports based on leaked information from Snowden.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2478914/Phone-chargers-given-world-leaders-G20-Russian-hosts-able-capture-data-Kremlin.html#ixzz2j7odgC3F Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook