Head of IT for Ghanaian Government Reached Out to Hacking Team on Behalf of Secret Service

On February 24, 2014, Richard Attoh-Okine, Head of Information Technology for the Ghana National Gas Company, emailed a representative at Hacking Team, an Italian manufacturer of surveillance spyware whose emails were leaked in a large data dump on Sunday. In the short initial email, which can be read on WikiLeaks, Attoh-Okine asked for the price of the Remote Control System (RCS), Hacking Team’s “flagship software,” according to The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher. Hacking team’s website describes the Remote Control System as:

“a solution designed to evade encryption by means of an agent directly installed on the device to monitor. Evidence collection on monitored devices is stealth and transmission of collected data from the device to the RCS server is encrypted and untraceable.”

A sales representative from Hacking Team named Emad Shehata, replied to Attoh-Okine later the same day and asked him to fill out a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) so they could further the discussion and speak confidentially.

Nearly three months later, in May, it appears Attoh-Okine spoke with the Hacking Team representative over the phone. “Thanks for your calling last week,” wrote Shehata.

After the phone discussion, it seems that Shehata did not have further contact with Attoh-Okine. However, some details of their call come out in an internal Hacking Team email, written in Italian and translated here.

“I just had a call with a Ghanaian client. It’s a national petroleum company,” wrote Shehata to Hacking Team COO Giancarlo Russo and sales manager Marco Bettini. “The end client is the secret service agency, who for political-economic reasons can’t buy directly, but [instead buy] through one of their organizations.”

In later emails, Shehata and Russo discuss whether there are any issues with selling to the government of Ghana, an extraordinarily peaceful country that has lately been struggling with flooding and generally crumbling infrastructure. “There aren’t any obvious compromises,” Shehata concludes.