Hacking Team Hacked. This is why Nigerians should care

If you are very interested in information tech, digital security, anonymity and circumvention, you might have heard that Hacking Team got hacked and over 400GB of internal memos, emails, passwords, client lists and gpg keys were leaked on the internet and it was a VERY BIG DEAL.

But just in case you are one of the people who has no idea what I am talking about, THIS is Hacking Team:

Yes, Hacking Team is an Italian company that sells spyware and malware to governments so that they can hack into our phones, computers and online accounts. Rumor has had it since 2013 that they don’t care who you are, and they will sell to you as long as you can pay their price. Scary…

You might wonder, what is so bad about Hacking Team or governments spying on citizens, then let me tell you the capabilities of hacking team’s Remote Computer System (RCS). What distinguishes RCS from traditional surveillance solutions (e.g wiretapping) is that RCS can capture all data that is stored on a your computer, even if the computer never sends the information over the Internet. It also has the ability to copy files from your computer’s hard disk, record your skype calls, e-mails, instant messages, turn on your device’s webcam and microphone to record everything you say or do (without you ever knowing it happened) and even copy passwords you’re typing into a web browser…

In 2014, citizen lab released a report on the countries that ran Hacking Team’s software. Not surprising, Nigeria popped up as one othem. Along with Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Turkey…

Among many people’s concerns is the fact that Hacking Team sells tools to countries with documented human rights abuses. E.g. Sudan — a country of abuses include persecution of human rights workers, slavery, genocide, and the widespread use of child soldiers. And the Russian, Bahrain, Ethiopian and Moroccan governments which have been found to among other things targets journalists and political opponents.

And it gets worse. Not only has Hacking Team been identified and associated with attacks on political dissidents, journalists and human rights defenders, it has also been selling its tools to private companies. It comes as no surprise then that Reporters Without Borders has named Hacking Team as one of the enemies of the internet.

Now before you start screaming security, non of these billion dollar tools have been proven to foil any terrorist attacks. Or even capture criminals AFTER the fact. What we do know is that many countries have been very good at using it to repress journalists and critical activists and opposition voices. And at a time where more and more people are being punished for their online actions, this is indeed a scary development.

But WHY should Nigerians care?

Well we have seen that the Ethiopian government has paid a whooping $1,000,000 to hacking team. As more documents are being released, I hope we get to see how much the Nigerian government has been paying to spy on us.

According to some of the documents already released here (line 36) Bayelsa State government was already using the services of hacking team as far back as 2013. The federal government had budgeted $61,000,000 to purchase surveillance technology and at least $40m of it was spent on Elbiet systems. The rest was al up for speculations, until now…

But 400GB of data is a lot to go through and as the data is released, there will be local and global repercussions for Hacking Team and the countries using their tools. As for what Nigerians can do with the information, that is all up to us. But I am hoping it will spark debate on internet rights, rights to privacy, data access and control, and the need to for proper legislation on the rights, responsibilities and punitive measures regarding data in Nigeria. The hackers have done their part, it is time for us to do ours. And that starts by paying attention…

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