Hacked hackers get hacked off

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Are you a government wanting to keep tabs on your citizens? Or a security agency scanning the deep web for criminal activity? If so, the Italian hacking contractor Hacking Team (yes, that’s the actual name of the business) has you covered. At least it did until this week when they were hacked themselves, and a huge cache of top secret data was leaked and uploaded to WikiLeaks, including emails, product details and client lists.
Hacking Team’s portfolio of intrusion software includes products that infect computers and record information, key-presses, and conversations via apps like Skype and Whatsapp. Wired reports that its software was used by the Ethiopian regime to target journalists based in Washington DC, in an attack on a Moroccan media outlet and a human rights activist from the United Arab Emirates. Among its many clients are the FBI (who have paid $775k for surveillance software since 2011) and regimes with less-than-stellar human rights records in Sudan and Bahrain.

The hack reveals a tantalising glimpse at the innards of the private security sector. Details are still emerging as journalists and privacy activists churn through the leaked data with glee. Meanwhile, the attacks come during debates over whether hacking tools are defined as weapons in the terms of arms control agreements. An international arms control pact called the Wassenaar Arrangement has been a hot topic in recent weeks over measures that would control the international export of hacking software.

This originally appeared in Moving World Wednesday 20150708 

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