Newly released Snowden documents reportedly reveal that Britain's intelligence agencies spied on Octave Klaba, the CEO of one of Europe's largest internet hosting firms OVH. "Oles" as Klaba is fondly nicknamed in France, appeared in a list of GCHQ targets, according to reports.
Klaba's email address was listed among others considered as targets by the Five Eyes intelligence agencies. According to a report by Le Monde, in 2009, the GCHQ in a test aimed at uncovering whether it was possible to intercept a satellite liaison between Sierra Leone and Belgium, British intelligence agencies intercepted a list of email addresses, which were obtained as part of the intercepted data. The list contained email addresses belonging to politicians and ambassadors as well as Klaba.
Although the intercepted data did not disclose the content of Klaba's sent and received emails, it reveals that the OVH founder was regarded as a target and his communication metadata was collected by the GCHQ.
The GCHQ's interest in Klaba
Previously disclosed Snowden documents have indicated that the NSA had expressed interest in French firms such as Alcatel, a smartphone manufacturing firm and Wanadoo, an internet service provider (ISP).
In 2009, OVH, which is also among the few firms that own the most servers across the globe, was also considered among Europe's major firms. The company was then expanding exponentially, with considerable phone services, domain name purchases and more notably, internet hosting. Reports speculate that these aspects would have likely made OVH and attractive target for intelligence agencies.
US intelligence agencies were also allegedly interested in OVH over its lax internet hosting policies. The firm temporarily hosted the official website of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which was suspected of war crimes and resulted in the UN slamming OVH. Moreover, in 2010, Klaba decided to host a mirror website for WikiLeaks, after the original site was taken down by the US government.
OVH was the victim of a massive data breach in 2013, which resulted in hacker/hackers compromising company servers via internal emails. The investigation into the attack is still ongoing. According to an internal memo, the attack may likely have been corporate espionage. Following the cyberattack, Klaba said, "In a word, we've not been paranoid enough. We're now in superior paranoid mode."
Whether the British intelligence agencies were motivated politically, economically or technically still remains unclear. Klaba is yet to comment on the matter.