08.12.2016 French media: Intelligence agencies listen air-passengers’ cell phones

   Intelligence services' mission is ordered to be preventing new terrorist attacks on flights.

The intelligence agencies of the US and the UK have for years had technology in their disposal that allows to listen phone calls and receive vast amounts of other data from fliers' cell phones.

The news was reported by a French newspaper Le Monde and a news page The Intercept, which have received their information from the espionage-exposer Edward Snowden. Regular phone calls are not possible in planes, but many airlines offer their passengers the possibility to link their phones to the plane's wifi network and make calls through it.

The French media has attained internal reports from the US national security agency NSA and UK intelligence agency GCHQ, which reveal the phone monitoring. The purpose of the monitoring was to prevent the terrorist attack made with planes.

"Excellent results" from phone monitoring

According to reports the monitoring has yielded excellent results. The monitoring programs' code names are "Thieving Magpie" and "Homing Pigeon".

The listening stations on the ground were able to catch the satellite signal sent from the plane. When the phone was operated it was possible to locate. After this the program conducted a cross tabulation, which revealed the flight's passenger index. The airline's code revealed who was using the phone.

The intelligence worker monitoring the call could disconnect it and the passenger would have to enter their pass code to the phone, letting the intelligence worker into the data stored in the phone.

The intelligence agencies followed especially the passenger calls from two airlines, the French Air France and the Mexican Aeromexico. This was because these companies' planes were seen to be in most danger to be chosen as a target for a terrorist attack. The similar wifi network option is used in dozens of other airlines also.

- Clearly we weren't the only ones being followed. We don't know anything about this activity, Air France commented the information.

According to reports the monitoring option was available in Europe, Middle East and Africa.