Cabinet Office reveals deal with Saudi firms, but refuses to say exactly how much it has made from the transaction
The British government has admitted selling large numbers of internet addresses to Saudi Arabia, but refused to reveal how much it has has earned from the transaction.
Westminster said it could not control the use of these addresses, which originally belonged to the Department of Work and Pensions, amid fears they may have allowed ISIS extremists to connect to the internet and spread their message of hate.
They were sold as part of a drive to raise money by auctioning unused "IP addresses", which are the identifying numbers used to label each connection point to the internet.
Although the government announced plans to auction its surplus IP numbers, it can now be revealed that a chunk of them went to Saudi Telecom and the Saudi-based Mobile Telecommunications Company.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The government owns millions of unused IP addresses which we are selling to get a good return for hardworking taxpayers.
"We have sold a number of these addresses to telecoms companies both in the UK and internationally to allow their customers to connect to the internet.
"We think carefully about which companies we sell addresses to, but how their customers use this internet connection is beyond our control."
The government did not reveal how much money was made from selling the IP addresses to the pair of Saudi firms, because it regards this information as commercially sensitive.
The Saudi deal was first revealed after hackers claimed that a number of Islamic State supporters' social media accounts are being run from internet addresses which could be linked to the Department of Work and Pensions.
A group of four young computer experts who call themselves VandaSec have unearthed evidence indicating that at least three ISIS-supporting accounts can be traced back to the DWP.
The hacking collective showed Mirror Online details of the IP addresses used by a trio of separate digital jihadis to access Twitter accounts, which were then used to spread extremist propaganda.
At first glance, the IP addresses seem to be based in Saudi Arabia, but upon further inspection using specialist tools they appeared to link back to the DWP.
"Don't you think that's strange?" one of the hackers asked Mirror Online. "We traced these accounts back to London, the home of the British intelligence services."
VandaSec's work has sparked wild rumours suggesting someone inside the DWP is running ISIS-supporting accounts, or they were created by intelligence services as a honeypot to trap wannabe jihadis.
However, when Mirror Online traced the IP addresses obtained by VandaSec, we found they actually pointed to a series of unpublicised transactions between Britain and Saudi Arabia.
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We learned that the British government sold on a large number of IP addresses to the two Saudi Arabian firms.
Read more: ISIS Encyclopedia of Terror: Who's behind it, what it's used for and how 'keyboard warriors' can become killers
After the sale completed in October of this year, they were used by extremists to spread their message of hate.
Jamie Turner, an expert from a firm called PCA Predict, discovered a record of the sale of IP addresses, and found a large number were transferred to Saudi Arabia in October of this year.