Guest Post: Hackers For Government Hire -A Growing And Deeply Disturbing Industry
Submitted by Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,
Wikileaks recently continued the release of what they refer to as the “Spy Files.” These files provide a look into some of the companies behind the rapid commercialization of the spy equipment industry, who’s clients include repressive governments and dictatorial regimes around the world. In a press release announcing these files Wikileaks states:
Across the world, mass surveillance contractors are helping intelligence agencies spy on individuals and ‘communities of interest’ on an industrial scale.
The Wikileaks Spy Files reveal the details of which companies are making billions selling sophisticated tracking tools to government buyers, flouting export rules, and turning a blind eye to dictatorial regimes that abuse human rights.
One of the companies highlighted is an Italian based company called Hacking Team, a firm I had never heard of or read about until I came across an article from The Verge yesterday. What I read was pretty terrifying. The Verge explains that:
In 2001, a pair of Italian programmers wrote a program called Ettercap, a “comprehensive suite for man-in-the-middle attacks” — in other words, a set of tools for eavesdropping, sniffing passwords, and remotely manipulating someone’s computer. Ettercap was free, open source, and quickly became the weapon of choice for analysts testing the security of their networks as well as hackers who wanted to spy on people. One user called it “sort of the Swiss army knife” of this type of hacking.
Ettercap was so powerful that its authors, ALoR and NaGA, eventually got a call from the Milan police department. But the cops didn’t want to bust the programmers for enabling hacker attacks. They wanted to use Ettercap to spy on citizens. Specifically, they wanted ALoR and NaGA to write a Windows driver that would enable them to listen in to a target’s Skype calls.
That’s how a small tech security consultancy ended up transforming into one of the first sellers of commercial hacking software to the police. ALoR’s real name is Alberto Ornaghi and NaGA is Marco Valleri. Their Milan-based company, Hacking Team, now has 40 employees and sells commercial hacking software to law enforcement in “several dozen countries” on “six continents.”
Today, Hacking Team’s flagship product, Da Vinci, enables law enforcement at federal, state, or local levels to collect heaps more data than the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program is reportedly capable of gathering. With Da Vinci, the police can monitor a suspect’s cell phone conversations, emails, and Skype calls, and even spy on the target through his or her webcam and microphone. It’s as if the investigator were standing behind a suspect using their computer.
Now check out the Hacking Team’s promotional video. One word: Creepy.
To protect us from the terrorists I’m sure.
Full article here.
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