Hackers Infiltrate Italian Spyware Company that Signed Contract with Bahrain to Spy on Citizens
2015-07-10 - 5:35 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Information obtained from Hacking Team, an Italian spyware manufacturer, revealed that Bahrain recently purchased spyware from the company and that the latest maintenance of these spyware programs took place during 2015. The documents obtained by hackers from the Italian-based spyware company confirm that Bahrain renewed its contract with the company on May 5,2015. The Kingdom of Bahrain was the third country listed, according to the leaked documents, among those who had relations with the controversial company.
The team of hackers managed to breach the company's systems and leak 400GB of internal documents they obtained in a torrent file that was made available for download. The cache of documents includes invoices, emails and customers lists of the company.
Commenting on the issue, the digital security consultant with Front Line Defenders for Middle East and North Africa, Mohammed al-Maskati, said that "Bahrain purchased several spywares from Hacking Team and as per the leaked documents, the last maintenance happened not so back ago."
"The Hacking Team spyware can breach encrypted files and emails, Skype and other Voice over IP or chat communication, copy local files and turn on the device camera. The spyware can also log every keystroke, which will include sensitive information and passwords," added al-Maskati.
For its part, the European Parliament called on the Italian authorities to conduct an "urgent, thorough investigation" into Hacking Team's sales, while the company requested all its customers to shut down all operations and suspend all use of the company's spyware.
Hacking Team is an Italian spyware company which sells powerful malware surveillance tools to governments and law enforcement agencies. The company's official Twitter account was also targeted by the team of hackers who pointed to the torrent file containing the leaked internal data. They also hacked a personal account of one of the company's engineers, who was defending the company on Twitter after the hack was officially confirmed.
For his part, the Saudi analyst and CEO of Cyberkov, Abdullah Al-Ali, said: "The hack of the developed spyware company (Hacking Team) is the second after the Hack of spying company (Gamma FinFisher) in early 2015, who were both named enemies of the internet."
It is still unknown whether Bahrain had purchased spyware from Hacking Team and renewed its contract this year (2015) after data was leaked from Gamma, revealing that the government used surveillance programs to spy on opposition activist and leaders.
A team of hackers had hacked into the systems of Gamma, a UK and Germany-based major surveillance technology company in August 2014, and leaked 40GB of its internal data. The obtained documents revealed that the company sold FinFisher and FinSpy software to Bahrain.
"Hacking Team targets people by fake Koran, bible and game apps and then films them and records their voices," Al-Ali further stated, adding that the company's programs are not limited to hacking and spying, they also able to plant data in the victim's computer, "if Hacking Team sees that you are innocent, they plant terrorist content, like information about bomb making and child rape videos, and then arrest you."
Al-Ali went on to say that "Hacking Team even deceives its clients. It sells them spyware so that they could spy on their targets while it spies on them."
"The Lebanese Intelligence signed a contract with the company worth USD 1,156.000 of digital spyware services. The Sudanese Intelligence signed a contract worth USD 480,000 with Hacking Team to hack people's devices and phones and spy on them," said Al-Ali.
Hacking Team was founded in 2003. It is considered the first company to sell its products to governments looking to monitor personal information and spy on people. One of the company's products is Da Vinci which enables the attacker, usually a government entity, to infiltrate and control the device of the target and covert collection of emails, text message, phone call history and address books.
Reporters Without Borders also stated that this spyware allows the governments to Hijack telephone GPS systems to monitor the target's location and turn on and eavesdrop via a computer's webcam.
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