GCHQ Open Sources Its Spy Software – So, Am I Going To Hate Them Less?

gchq uk spying software open source
gchq uk spying software open source
Image | GCHQ

Short Bytes: NSA’s British counterpart GCHQ has just open sourced its spying tool named Gaffer. The software is written in Java and serves the purpose of a mass-scale graph database. Read more about the software below and find the link to its code on GitHub.

At fossBytes, we love open source technologies and software. We loved it when Elon Musk created a new open source research firm OpenAI to save the world from ‘evil computers’, we praised Apple for turning Swift into an open source language -and the list goes on. But, how should we react when NSA’s British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) open sources one of its Java-based spying tools called Gaffer.

While GCHQ has been blamed time and again for spying on us, this move by the agency has stirred up a debate among the programmer and hacker community. Should this make you hate GCHQ less, or should you use it at your work? Well, as GCHQ describes, Gaffer is a “framework that makes it easy to store large-scale graphs in which the nodes and edges have statistics such as counts, histograms and sketches.”

In a simple language, Gaffer can be used to analyse the data and study internal relationships between different pieces. You can take the API and use it to identify who talks when, to whom, and other bits of information. As GCHQ mentions on its GitHub page, the software is “optimised for retrieving data on nodes of interest.”

We don’t know what purpose Gaffer serves behind the close walls of GCHQ, but we have an idea that Gaffer could’ve been used in the past to analyse the data and find out who is at the top of a network. It’s just a wild guess as Gaffer is a British slang for the word “boss”.

Image | GCHQ on GitHub

The secret service agency’s GitHub repo doesn’t mention the reasons that prompted it to open source the software. However, it does mention that it has already started work on Gaffer 2. Good luck, British readers!

It’s possible that GCHQ wishes to follow the route of UK government and is keen to release its codes. This step is also being seen as a clever way to hire potential hackers to address the security issues.

What do you think? Share your own views about GCHQ’s open-source software in the comments below.

Find the code of software at GCHQ’s GitHub page: Gaffer – GCHQ

Images: GCHQ

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