French telco Orange is to take legal action following allegations that the US National Security Agency intercepted data on a submarine cable it uses to transport data from France to Africa and Asia.
Orange's planned lawsuit comes in response to details of efforts by the NSA to tap the SeaMeWe 4 (SMW-4) submarine cable, which carries internet traffic between Marseille in France, Sicily, North Africa, the Gulf states, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
According to NSA internal documents seen by German news outlet Spiegel Online, in February 2013 the NSA's high-end hacker squad within its Tailored Access Operations unit employed a "website masquerade operation" to gain access to the SMW-4 consortium's management website, and collected network data that showed the circuit mapping for significant portions of the network.
The paper suggests the techniques the NSA used to gain access were likely drawn from its QUANTUMINSERT method, which rely on spoofing LinkedIn profile pages of targets.
Orange said in a statement it had no involvement in the NSA's alleged spying activity on the SMW-4 cable, adding although it is a user of the submarine cable it is not involved in its management.
"Orange has no involvement and is totally unaware of any of the operations that were allegedly carried out on the SeaMeWe 4 submarine cable," an Orange spokesperson said.
"Orange is a user of this equipment but plays no management role. If any interception did in fact take place, this could not have happened through the Orange network, which has not been subject to any such attack."
The spokesperson said that Orange will file suit shortly, which appears to be aimed at discovering whether or not the NSA tried to intercept Orange's customer data.
Orange "is considering the different legal options available in the hypothesis that an attempt was indeed made to intercept data transported by Orange on this cable and will file suit in the next few days as a plaintiff," said the spokesperson.
"Orange reaffirms its commitment to privacy and data protection, and adheres fully to the conditions that are clearly defined and imposed by the law. No institution or state can choose to disregard these conditions."
As noted by Reuters, the French legal system permits a plaintiff to file a complaint without selecting a defendant, but the complaint can trigger an investigation and subsequent legal process.
Orange's planned legal action commences as document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal the extent of the NSA's reach over technology equipment and communications networks across the globe. Last week the NSA's TAO group was also fingered for embedding backdoors on routers and other equipment from nearly every major vendor, including Cisco, Juniper and Huawei.