Surveillance Trade Between Hacking Team and Repressive Regimes

Gulf Hacks
Jun 23, 2018 · 3 min read

The Italian information technology firm, Hacking Team, covertly deals with repressive governments around the world and offers them with surveillance technology. Despite the covert network, the firms surveillance technology trade with government around the world was exposed, revealing the list of clienteles and technologies dealt with. Hacking Team sells software applications that enable ‘interested governments’ to hack into their citizen’s computers, mobile phones, and even their GPS systems to watch over their activities and track them. In one of the most ironic attacks, the Hacking Team itself got hacked, which led to leaking critical information regarding its client network around the world. The information consisted of several repressive regimes as Hacking Team’s clienteles in the surveillance technology space.

Hacking Team: A Channelized Hacking Across Globe

Based on the study of leaked documents available online in the open source directory, the conclusion can be drawn that approximately twenty-one repressive governments are linked to and are using spyware technology furnished by the Hacking Team. Even though the operation was led covertly, the exchanged emails got leaked eventually, disclosing all the clienteles that the Hacking Team has ever associated with.

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Amongst the clients were governments of Ethiopia, Morocco, Malaysia, Italy, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Nigeria, Mexico, Oman, Poland, Sudan, etc.

The CEO and co-founder of Hacking Team, David Vincenzetti, visibly played the lead in a majority of emails exchanged with the potential clients as well as the ones secured by the firm. In one of the many emails, Hacking Team’s person in charge for Asia Pacific market can be seen communicating with the Director of an Australian consultancy firm, which was readily trying to sell their spyware products to their official governmental links of the past years. One of these firms was, Providence Australasia Consultancy Service. Daniel Maglietta, the Hacking Team Asia Pacific market’s person in charge quoted, “Do you have any active Governmental Agencies interested in our product at current time or do we need to search for them?”

Further, another email linked to Qatar showed the First Secretary of Embassy of the State of Qatar listing the particular tools required by their government for surveillance. The enlisted requirements included, computer surveillance, network surveillance, mass surveillance, data mining and profiling, global data analytics, intelligence software, mobile control and protection, cyber technologies, special trojan, lawful interception, social network analysis, Internet trafficking, audio surveillance, electronic tracking (vehicle), covert audio and video devices, surveillance vehicle, etc. All of the listed technologies pointed at the need of conducting surveillance of mass citizens, covertly by tracking their mobile devices, social networking applications on them, audio/video, and even their vehicles (through GPS).

Even though being “an international company”, the Hacking Team traded with many different countries in the area of surveillance technology. The firm was allowed to be “involved in business within the 5 continents”. However, due to the project prices ranging from 200,000 to 1 million euros, as quoted by Vincenzetti, the firm ensures getting an NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement signed before confirming a deal with the signing government.

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