Top 10 crime, national security and law stories of 2022

A Russian hacking group, believed to be working on behalf of Russian intelligence, has been targeting politicians, journalists, military and former intelligence officers for at least the past seven years.

In May this year, the group secured one of its greatest successes by publicly compromising emails and documents from Richard Dearlove, a top British spy chief and former head of MI6, and more than 60 others, in a secretive network of right-wing activists set up in 1988 to campaign for a hard Brexit.

Computer Weekly, with the assistance of a grant from the Association of British Science Writers, has been able to systematically analyse the leaked emails, which reveal how the group tried to influence government policy on Chinese technology, satellites, vaccines and Covid. We present the first two stories in a series here.

Meanwhile, the courts have continued to grapple with the legal implications of a novel hacking operation against encrypted phone network EncroChat, which has led to hundreds of arrests of organised criminals in the UK.

Courts in multiple countries are addressing legal questions over whether millions of messages harvested from EncroChat can be lawfully used in evidence. In the UK, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal is considering whether the UK’s National Crime Agency acted with proper candour when it applied for a Targeted Equipment Interference warrant that would allow EncroChat evidence to be cited in court. The verdict could affect hundreds of prosecutions.

Europol co-ordinated the EncroChat hacking operation. MEPs voted to give it new powers to collect and process data on European citizens from telephone, internet and social media and other sources. The vote overturned an order by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) requiring Europol to delete huge amounts of previously unlawfully gathered data, including data on people not suspected of any crime.

Computer Weekly also reported on government pressure to weaken the protection offered by end-to-end encryption, to better police terrorism and child abuse. The proposals have been criticised by the Information Commissioner’s Office for failing to recognise the value of encryption for security,…