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31 October, 2014

Spyware sold by private companies

... there are already methods to bypass encryption, thanks to off-the-shelf digital implants readily available to the smallest national agencies and the largest city police forces — easy-to-use software that takes over and monitors digital devices in real time, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.”

We’re publishing in full, for the first time, manuals explaining the prominent commercial implant software 'Remote Control System,' manufactured by the Italian company Hacking Team. Despite FBI director James Comey’s dire warnings about the impact of widespread data scrambling — 'criminals and terrorists would like nothing more,' he declared — Hacking Team explicitly promises on its website that its software can 'defeat encryption.'”

The manuals describe Hacking Team’s software for government technicians and analysts, showing how it can activate cameras, exfiltrate emails, record Skype calls, log typing, and collect passwords on targeted devices. They also catalog a range of pre-bottled techniques for infecting those devices using wifi networks, USB sticks, streaming video, and email attachments to deliver viral installers. With a few clicks of a mouse, even a lightly trained technician can build a software agent that can infect and monitor a device, then upload captured data at unobtrusive times using a stealthy network of proxy servers, all without leaving a trace.”

The company has made at least some sales to American entities, according to comments its outspoken co-founder and CEO David Vincenzetti made in l’Espresso in 2011. 'We sell Remote Control System to institutions in more than 40 countries on five continents,' he told the Italian newsmagazine. 'All of Europe, but also the Middle East, Asia, United States of America.'”

Turnkey solutions like RCS effectively multiply the online threats faced by activists, dissidents, lawyers, businessmen, journalists, and any number of other computer users.”

What is clear is that large nations with well-funded intelligence establishments have long been capable of the kind of surveillance Hacking Team offers.”

Hacking Team and the German firm FinFisher have taken over another niche, as the most prominent purveyors of user-friendly, off-the-shelf spyware for less moneyed customers, says Ben Wagner, director of the Center for Internet and Human Rights at the European University Viadrina. A recent leak of FinFisher data showed customer service communications between the company and Bahrain, Pakistan, Estonia, and a regional police department in Australia, among other clients.”

Activists in Bahrain and Ethiopia have found FinFisher spyware on their computers.”

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