The intriguing secrets related to politicians and their penetration into the intelligence and security services for the sake of particular political interests certainly attract the most media attention.
Dr. Denis Hadzovic
What do citizens need to know about this, for many, intriguing topic? First, they must be aware that there are legal and illegal activities related to the topic of eavesdropping. Legal measures are implemented by the security and police apparatus in order to protect the state security (collection of classified information), ie to conduct special investigative measures (fight against serious forms of crime, terrorism and corruption). Democratic states require their services to have a court order when carrying out these actions because the rights of the individual to privacy are woven into the very foundations of democracy and are explicitly stated in the European Convention on Human Rights. Numerous mechanisms have been established to find an adequate balance between these two extremes within the competence of the state. The most obvious inconsistency in the practice of Bosnia and Herzegovina is reflected in the parliamentary deficit of supervision and control of the activities in question.
The intriguing secrets related to politicians and their penetration into the intelligence and security services for the sake of particular political interests certainly attract the most media attention. The most vivid example in recent history is certainly the Watergate scandal, but our region is also not immune from similar abuses of the state apparatus. A few years ago, the fact of illegal monitoring of over 4.000 phones in North Macedonia by the Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence came to surface. The recent insinuations about monitoring the communications between the President of the Republic of Serbia and his family are certainly another proof of the usurpation and abuse of political power. In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has also been the subject of media reports about illegal actions by certain government institutions, but none of them has received a judicial epilogue. It is to be expected that the public will be timely and adequately informed about the recent recording made during the official meetings of the Chief Prosecutor of BiH and the Director of the Intelligence and Security Agency of BiH. Similar journalistic performances that were done on the topic of media exclusivity and obtained without the consent of the other party were not processed in accordance with positive legal norms.
A very devastating effect of eavesdropping on ordinary citizens is the illegal interception of means of communication, by usurping the telephones, emails or computers we use. Reasons can be benign, such as mistrust of a spouse or parent, or even for fun, while access to individual information can lead to significant financial losses per person being hacked. The availability of sophisticated and inexpensive devices on the market generally favors individuals to choose to play spies in the modern age, but as we have seen they too can cause significant difficulties to the wiretapped actors. Systematic soft wiretap (soft eavesdropping) is currently the most serious penetration into software devices, but also the most demanding and most expensive hacking venture.
The rapid information-technological communication development that comes with the 4th industrial revolution or the digital age that we are already living in, requires our adaptation, education, but also personal protection. You will be informed about the legal wiretapping by the state authorities about the implementation of these measures after their completion, while you have to defend yourself from illegal interventions in your private life. So a couple of basic tips won’t hurt. Don’t use public Wi-Fi or password-free networks unless you really have to, don’t answer suspicious phone calls or text messages, read emails carefully, don’t leave cell phones without supervision, and take care to install verified apps on your devices. Like us, neither is the digital forensic community sufficiently developed to be able to gather evidence and prosecute perpetrators of contemporary crimes in this challenging area.
Denis Hadzovic, PhD, is one of the founders and the Secretary General of the Centre for Security Studies in Sarajevo since it’s establishment in 2001