According to a report by Motherboard, Hacking Team, the Italian based technology vendor that rose to fame when a 40GB Wikileaks leak brought to light it was selling covert surveillance technology to governments with questionable human rights records, is back in business.
Approaching various US law enforcement agencies, government agencies and local police departments via email, the company’s CEO David Vincenzetti has been offering encryption-cracking tools stating that, “Only the private companies can help here; we are one of them.”
Vincenzetti went on to add, “It is crystal clear that the present American administration does not have the stomach to oppose the American IT conglomerates and to approve unpopular, yet totally necessary, regulations.”
Motherboard is reporting that this email pitch offers, “brand new and totally unprecedented cyber-investigation solutions,” that the company is in the process of finalising. Vincenzetti calls them “game changers”. It’s still unknown when the company plans to release the newest version of its Remote Control System software, on which it is apparently working on.
Quickly rising to ‘fame’ when hacked by an individual identifying as PhineasFisher, and a 400GB+ trove of Hacking Team’s documents, emails and source code was dumped online after operating in the shadows since 2012 when researchers at Toronto University had discovered a piece of malware named DaVinci that was being used against journalists and traced it back to Hacking Team.
The leak revealed various things about the company, including but not limited to questionable customers, and that the FBI and DEA had bought from the company in the past. The company executives came under fire too whenthe company was forced to ask all customers to temporarily shut down all deployments of its Remote Control System software (“Galileo”) in order for the customers’ spying efforts to remain undetected.
In a Motherboard interview with Alberto Pelliccione, Hacking Team’s ex-lead Android developer, he said that a small group of high-level employees who all left after him, had all highlighted the terrible company culture that exists within Hacking Team too, where the CEO had thrown around lots of accusation for the Wikileaks leak, and threatened legal action when employees wanted to leave; reportedly being called an “infidel” wasn’t out of the ordinary.
In 2013 Hacking Team was named “Enemies of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders for selling tools to repressive regimes. A year later in Feb of 2014, Citizen Lab exposed that the Ethiopian government had used Hacking Team’s spyware to hack into the computers of several journalists in the diaspora, calling this a clear attack on freedom of speech.
According to Motherboard, Hacking Team declined to comment on the report, but the company has always kept the position that it doesn’t sell to countries where there are “credible concerns” that its products will be “used to facilitate human rights violations”.
The company even used to have an external review board to make sure it didn’t do this, however the panel turned out to be formed of lawyers at the firm Bird & Bird, a company sold to Sudan, when the UN had put the country on an embargo blacklist.