Bruce Schneier Leaves BT As Surveillance ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Denied

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Schneier isn’t leaving because of alleged BT connections with GCHQ spying, as “conspiracy theories” are shrugged off by the telecoms giant

Cryptographic luminary and anti-NSA activist Bruce Schneier has left BT, his employer of the past seven years, but there is no suggestion he has left as a result of claims the telecoms giant colluded with the US and UK governments in their surveillance operations.

“We can confirm that Bruce Schneier, BT’s security futurologist, is leaving BT at the end of December 2013,” BT said, in a statement sent to TechWeekEurope.

Schneier waves goodbye to BT

BT Logo in StoneSchneier has been one of the security industry’s most prominent voices calling for action to fix encryption and trust on the Internet, after the Edward Snowden revelations indicated intelligence agencies had found ways around protections designed to protect people’s privacy.

It was claimed BT worked with GCHQ on collecting information entering and exiting the UK. BT has repeatedly said it only handed over data when it was legally required of the company.

Schneier said he had left to work on other projects and was thankful for his time at BT, according to reports, and had nothing to do with the reports.

Conspiracy theories emerge

Further claims have surfaced suggesting BT involvement in surveillance campaigns, but they have been derided as “conspiracy theories”.

A group, posting a PDF on Cryptome, claimed they had carried out research suggesting backdoors had been installed in home and business routers. Looking at firmware images from modems, the group claimed that BT routers were set up to allow connections in from a “secret military network” owned by the US Department of Defence.

The core argument was that a second IP address is assigned to BT routers, which allows for outside access. Yet this is standard practice across ISPs to provide access for engineers when software problems emerge.

“BT routers have a second IP address so we can make software updates without the need for an engineer visit. This is extremely common in the industry and it is well known,” a BT spokesperson said.

“It is also the case that many other devices such as gaming consoles, smart TVs have such addresses. As for the anonymous report, it is not our policy to comment on conspiracy theories.”

Security researchers have sided with BT. Rob Graham, of Errata Security, said the few remaining IPv4 addresses were assigned to the Department of Defence, and that was likely why BT was using them.

“The better explanation is that BT simply chose this address space because it’s non-routable. While it’s assigned public address, it’s only used inside the private DoD military network. Try tracerouting to that address space, you’ll see that your packets go nowhere,” he added in a blog post.

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