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Hacking Team: At the Wrong End of a Massive Data Breach

On Sunday, an unknown group managed to release a Torrent file containing over 400GB worth of data from the Milan-based Hacking Team, a leading provider of easy-to-use surveillance and intrusion technology.
Hacking Team is known for providing hacking software to government and law enforcement agencies worldwide. They are responsible for the ‘Galileo’ (previously ‘DaVinci’) Remote Control System (RCS), a ‘hacking suite for governmental interception’ which purportedly enables the user to capture data by intercepting emails, SMS, Skype and voice communications. According to their website, RCS allows the user to look through their target’s eyes and is effective on many different platforms, including Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, and Blackberry. What’s more, it can defeat encryption and remains untraceable to the target.

In 2013, the freedom of information advocacy group Reporters Without Borders claimed that governments were purchasing surveillance technology from corporate suppliers and using them to control dissidents, spy on journalists, and violate human rights. The group listed Hacking Team as one of five private-sector companies that it dubbed digital era mercenaries. In a statement on CNET, a consultant for the company maintained that Hacking Team technology is sold exclusively to government clients and never to those that are blacklisted by the EU, NATO and the US, emphasising that it was designed to target crime and cyber-terrorism. But Reporters Without Borders state that media reports and IT security experts have found traces of Hacking Team technology in countries that do not have a good record in human rights and democracy.

A Citizen Lab report lists 21 countries suspected of using Hacking Team’s spyware, many of which have very low rankings in freedom of expression and commit ongoing human rights violations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Sudan. In 2013, the company’s US spokesperson denied selling technology to any repressive regime and stated that they rely on international blacklists to ensure that their spyware is not used as part of human rights abuses. But last year RCS was reportedly used against a dissident journalist group in Morocco and against a pro-democracy activist in the United Arab Emirates. US and European journalists have purportedly been targeted as well, possibly by the Ethiopian government, per another Citizen Lab report.

The data cache leaked on Sunday seems to link Hacking Team to Egypt, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Sudan. An invoice to Sudan valued at 480,000 Euro and dated July 2, 2012 was released as part of the data breach, which has a total value of over 4 million Euros. Hacking Team have stonewalled an investigation by the UN into the sale of their technology to Sudan, stating that RCS is not a weapon and therefore does not fall within the parameters of the UN sanction.

A list of every government client includes Italian law enforcement, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Oman, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as a handful of EU countries including Spain, Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Hacking Team did not react to the hack until Monday morning, when Christian Pozzi took to Twitter to comment on the breach. Pozzi claimed that the hackers had falsified the information: Most of what the attackers are claiming is simply not true…The attackers are spreading a lot of lies about our company that is simply not true. Pozzi's Twitter account was also hacked and has since been deleted.

While many are enjoying the irony that Hacking Team has found itself on the wrong end of an embarrassing breach, there is a genuine concern that the leak could release powerful spy technology into the wrong hands.

Aaron Waterhouse
Aaron is a recent English graduate from Durham University who is now working as a content writer intern. An enthusiastic traveller, he hopes to become a journalist and report from around the world. Follow him @AaronAtSMF

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Hacking Team: At the Wrong End of a Massive Data Breach Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, July 07, 2015 Rating: 5


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