Some of you might be familiar with the Italian security company Hacking Team. For those of you that have never heard of them, the company specializes on development of government-level surveillance systems. In short, they develop questionable malware for governments to spy on its citizens, likely on other targets as well. The company claim their product to be a “lawful intercept” technology.
The Intercept online magazine has obtained manuals the Hacking Team bundles with their Remote Control System (RCS). It appears the software is fairly advanced and easy to operate. Because of its user-friendly interface, high efficiency and versatility, the software is very popular among governments and law enforcement agencies alike. According to the co-founder and CEO, David Vincenzetti, they “sell Remote Control System to institutions in more than 40 countries on five continents. All of Europe, but also the Middle East, Asia, United States of America.” Now, this quote is from 2011. It’s only natural to assume this list has grown since then.
A report (no.2) by Citizen Lab from earlier this year highlights some of the countries they suspect are using the RCS spyware. Of these, 52% rank at the bottom of the World Bank Ranking of freedom of expression and accountability. Further still, 29% rank in the bottom third when it comes to the rule of law. Citizen Lab has done extensive research on the Hacking Team and its other two reports shed more light on company’s RCS mechanics, usage, etc. (Report no.1: Hacking Team and the Targeting of Ethiopian Journalists, report no.3: Hacking Team’s US Nexus). One of the reports examines how the Ethiopian government was spying on at least one US citizen, while many others might be targeted as well.
Make sure to read the response to the released documents by the CEO of Hacking Team, Mr. Vincenzetti, here. Have a look at the Hacking Team’s promotional video for Galileo RCS below.
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