Notorious cybersecurity firm Hacking Team has itself become a victim of a major breach operation that saw over 400GB of internal documents, emails and invoices published. The mysterious hackers have exposed a private surveillance firm that has put business ahead of ethics at unknown human cost.
Hacking Team are an Italian-based security company that provide spyware and legal intrusion or surveillance software to law enforcement and intelligence services around the world. The effective products themselves allow the user to tap into mobile phones, webcams, computer microphones and Skype calls.
On Sunday night unidentified hackers ran amok for almost 12 hours. The perpetrators took control of the Hacking Team’s Twitter feed, ironically renaming it ‘Hacked Team’. They then published incriminating documents and screenshots of sensitive information until the company was able to regain control on Monday.
In 2013 a Reporters Without Borders report labelled Hacking Team a “digital mercenary” that sells it’s surveillance products to all kinds of regimes across the globe.
Following the RWB report which branded them “enemies of the internet”, Hacking Team released a statement in defensive of their name. “On the issue of repressive regimes, Hacking Team goes to great lengths to assure that our software is not sold to governments that are blacklisted by the E.U., the U.S.A., NATO and similar international organizations or any "repressive" regime.”
As these documents and emails breached seem to confirm and validate the legitimacy of past accusations, Hacking Team may have some further questions to answer.
Found on the list of customers is Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Ethiopia - all of whom have come under criticism and scrutiny for their treatment and spying on citizens and journalists. One invoice for Sudan amounts to almost half a million euros, a country under UN embargo.
Human rights activists are calling on government bodies for the responsibility, accountability and regulation of companies like Hacking Team. In a press release yesterday Eric King, Deputy Director of watchdog Privacy International, outlined the importance of the leak in the ongoing debate.
“Hacking Team is one of the most aggressive companies currently supplying governments with hacking tools. Yesterday's leak of materials reportedly shows how Hacking Team assisted some of the world's most repressive regimes…”
He continues, “…surveillance companies like Hacking Team have shown they are incapable of responsibly regulating themselves, putting profit over ethics, time after time. Since surveillance companies continue to ignore their role in repression, democratic states must step in to halt their damaging business practices.”
Last month, the US Department of Commerce was proposing the expansion of the Wassenaar Arrangement - an arms regulation agreement - to promote greater control in the security industry regarding the sale of cyber-surveillance systems. When these kinds of tools are being supplied freely to entities that target and oppress individuals across the globe, the question as to whether they need to be regulated by law as weapons has never been more relevant.